“Samford needs to change their current policy that reflects the policies for other organizations on campus and recognizes the diligence of the Greek community to stay healthy.” wrote Addie Sims, a Samford student, on a petition for Samford to change their policies for sorority events in the COVID-era.
The petition challenged the inconsistency of Samford’s COVID policies, an inconsistency seen in several recent Samford events. These changing policies may also be playing into the anxiety of many students, as anxiety continues to be a prevalent symptom of the pandemic among college-aged adults.
Anxiety in the Pandemic
An ongoing Household Pulse Survey from the Nation Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and the Census Bureau, shows that anxiety continues to be high among 18-29-year-olds. In the survey’s first collection period, from April 23 to May 5, 2020, 40.2% of adults age 18-29 reported symptoms of an anxiety disorder.
That number peaked in late October and early November 2020, at 51.7%, but continues to remain high with the latest collection from September 1st to 13th of this year reporting symptoms in 43.6% of 18-29-year-olds.
Healthline.com offers a list of symptoms of an anxiety disorder including a sense of doom, panic attacks, depression, headaches, irritability, breathing problems, a pounding heart, an upset stomach, extreme fatigue, increased blood pressure and muscle aches.
A study released in Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry Volume 109 in July 2021, reports that anxiety is three times higher than normal globally in adults, rising from 7.3% to 25% due to the pandemic. The study adds that the rise in anxiety could be due to the lockdown measures that many countries used to try and slow the pandemic.
The authors report that anxiety rates during previous epidemics “ranged between 3.2% and 12.6%”. They also compare the increase in anxiety combined with lockdown measures to a similar outbreak, saying that it is “consistent with the negative psychological effects of quarantine reported during the SARS outbreak in Toronto.”
As more studies are done, uncertainty and isolation appear as themes of the pandemic and potential causes for anxiety. Now, Samford’s current COVID policies may be adding to the anxiety of its students.
Calling for Change
Addie Sims’ petition specifically targeted Samford’s mandate that sororities can only invite other Samford students to their functions, forbidding off-campus dates. Sims, a member of Alpha Delta Pi, challenged this rule, citing other Samford events that did not follow that type of guideline.
Sims mentioned that the Samford Chapter of the Sigma Chi fraternity held an off-campus formal in Tuscaloosa on September 10. The formal included off-campus dates and, as Sims pointed out, there was no COVID outbreak after the formal.
Sims also used Family Weekend in her argument, citing the lack of guidelines surrounding the event that took place on September 24-25. Sims said, “Samford’s campus was packed with friends and family, free from COVID restrictions, not needing to be tested or banned from campus.”
This lack of restrictions was also visible inside the University Center, as many of the families filling the UC did not heed the signs saying that masks are required indoors. Families, friends and students then filled the newly renamed Bobby Bowden Field to watch Samford play East Tennessee State University, without any COVID restrictions.
Some students find that these inconsistent restrictions can be an added source of stress and anxiety. Samford has not given a clearly laid out timeline for a return to normalcy, as their policies even changed from the beginning to the end of summer. “We’re forced to live in a state of ambiguity,” says one student.
Samford Answers the Call
The petition quickly gained some traction, reaching over 250 signatures by Wednesday. Some signees left reasons behind their signatures.
Madison Ward wrote, “I want equality for all events when it comes to COVID policies. I should be able to bring my fiancé to a sorority event when the week before had hundreds of families from all over the country maskless for an on campus event.”
Scarritt Purdy said, “I think outside dates and alumni should be able to participate in the amazing student engagement we have here at samford. Even if they aren’t [S]amford students they should still be able to engage!”
Samford responded quickly to the growing call for change. On Wednesday, September 29, Luis Aponte, Assistant Director of Greek Life, emailed students to inform them of a change in event policy. The email announced that “Samford fraternity and sorority members are permitted to invite non-Samford students as their date to a chapter major social event (i.e. date party, semi-formal, formal, etc.)”, as long as a short list of precautions is met.
The list includes a requirement that off-campus dates “take a rapid antigen test, with proof of a negative test result, within 12 hours of the event”.
This change may be another strong step in returning to normalcy. It also will hopefully provide comfort and more consistency to students who are struggling with anxiety from the pandemic and pandemic safety measures.