Without in-person events or meetings, IU student organizations must adapt to a new format this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have all lost our ability to develop a sense of community without having in person meetings and board bonding events,” said junior Zubia Sohail, president of the Pakistani Student Association.
“We need to rely on our own creativity to come up with events that people will attend, either in person or virtual,” Sohail said.
More confusion and obstacles have been introduced since the start of school due to policies set by the university. The virtual involvement fair is a prime example of how the university has not been able to smoothly transition to a fully virtual community.
“It has been quite difficult if I’m being honest,” Sohail said. “We just don’t want to put anyone at risk.”
Many student organizations are shifting their events online to Zoom and social media. Sohail said they have to rely on their own creativity to bring members together.
“The restrictions set by the university has made programming way harder than before," senior Kelly Fan, social advocacy chair of the Asian American Association said. "Thankfully, we have found ways to adapt.”
Having outdoor events and activities is one way that clubs can work around restrictions. Outdoor events have been popular among organizations, because it is safer than hosting events indoors.
Fan said they are planning more outdoor activities, such as a small hiking event. In order to limit group sizes, they're having the student apply for different time slots for the groups.
“It feels like we always have to fight to keep our club going,” Fan said. “Like if we dropped off IU wouldn't even care that we disappeared.”
Although Fan said IU has been less accommodating for the Asian American Association, this has not been the case for all student organizations.
Junior Miriam Haque, president of the Muslim Student Association, said the university has provided them a space on-campus for weekly Friday prayers.
“So far, we have had a good experience with them,” Haque said. “It is important for them to make sure that students and organizations are following protocols to keep everyone safe."
Student Organizations face new challenges when having events and deciding on programming. Events are only allowed with less than 24 people in one place at one time. If you want more than 25 people at an event, you have to submit a request to the University Event Request Committee. Additionally, if organizations decide to use an open air venue you have to sign an agreement and be issued a license. If it is an indoor event, all the attendees have to sign a waiver for contact tracing purposes. These new rules have made it difficult for student organizations to plan event for their communities.
The Asian American Association, Pakistani Student Association and Muslim Student Association haven’t been the only student organizations affected by confusing policies and last minute changes. Safety is always a first priority, but the last-minute demands and the lack of cooperation has made it difficult for new students and returning students to find a community.
On Bloomington’s campus coronavirus cases have increased every week since the semester started, so it is difficult to know when circumstances might change again for student organizations. In a time where students desire to come together as one more than any time before, IU is making it difficult for students to garner connections and support one another.