The Stacy Riddle Forum will reopen this Wednesday amid concerns over social distancing in sorority chapter rooms. Weekly in-person chapter meetings are set to resume on Sept. 7.
Baylor’s Panhellenic community is one of several groups adjusting to new COVID-19 guidelines and limitations on in-person activities. With approximately 300 members per chapter, there has been debate on how to move forward with chapter meetings and events while adhering to social distancing protocol.
An email from Erin Ellis, the assistant director of fraternity and sorority life, was sent to the nine chapters detailing the current occupancy rates and hours of operation for the Stacy Riddle Forum.
“We received some great news about occupancy rates in our building,” Ellis said in the email. “They look much better than we thought they originally would.”
Chapter rooms now have a standing room occupancy rate of 150.
“We will also want to be mindful that even if the occupancy rates allow us to gather in a group of 150, it may not always be the best option,” Ellis said. “Let’s care for our members, and, if we can, continue to encourage virtual gatherings.”
Like other buildings on campus, masks are required inside the Panhellenic building at all times.
Houston senior Ellen Bacarisse said she feels torn about the new sorority guidelines taking place in her final year of college.
“I have very mixed feelings about [meeting in person] because I do really want to see everybody. I love, you know, getting to be a part of all the fun things we do and uphold our traditions, but at the same time I don’t want to put myself or others at risk,” Bacarisse said. “I think that’s the priority, you know, staying safe.”
Sulphur Springs junior Anna Sapaugh suggested that her sorority could conduct in-person meetings by classification to ensure social distancing could be enforced.
“I think it is important to have in-person chapter meetings because I don’t think you get as much out of Zoom calls. We need to be able to interact with people in person, even if that means taking precautions by social distancing and limiting the numbers of people in the chapter rooms,” Sapaugh said. “If we are allowed to have in-person classes, then I think we should be able to manage in-person chapter meetings.”
Two factors likely to help Baylor sororities maintain social distancing requirements are the lack of official sorority houses and delayed recruitment. Unlike other universities who hold recruitment before school starts in the fall, Baylor sororities hold recruitment in the spring.
Texas A&M University, which conducts fall recruitment and has sorority houses, has already issued chapter-wide quarantines for two of their sororities.
Dr. Daniel Pugh, the vice president for Student Affairs at Texas A&M, said he believes this situation will help the university in handling future spikes within other student organizations.
Pugh posed the question: “What are we going to learn from these first two [student groups] that are going to help us on the next two [student groups]?”
Like the Panhellenic community at Texas A&M, Baylor sororities will continue to assess health risks as they move forward planning events and spring recruitment.