Student organizations at IU have moved almost entirely remote for the fall 2020 semester and are finding ways to virtually engage with students and promote safe social events.
With the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down most facets of college, many students on IU’s campus are living alone without a roommate, attending most of their classes online and are prohibited from attending large social events that are typically commonplace on college campuses. Blake Bradley, Kelley School of Business Student Government president, said without typical opportunities for social interaction, extracurricular activities are there to fill the gaps.
“During this time, I think extracurricular activities are more important than ever,” Bradley said. “Organizations are used to operating on a smaller scale than the university is. The smaller the scale, the more personalized a student’s experience is, and the more connected the student feels.”
Many student organizations have met the demand by providing remote opportunities for students who are either unable to participate inperson or are uncomfortable with face-to-face interaction. Imani Kigawa, president of Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship at IU, has created the option for the organization’s worship services to be available through Zoom or Facetime to ensure all students still have access to the club.
“All in-person services will be available remotely so that any student who is taking classes online and living at home or not comfortable joining in person can still stay connected to the community,” Kigawa said. “Once our small groups start, we'll have the option for people to zoom or FaceTime in so that they can still be included in those activities without having to interact inperson with other people.”
Chi Alpha has kept safe in-person services for students who are interested. The organization recently received approval from the IU administration for their first worship service of the semester, which will require congregants to wear masks and maintain a social distance of 6 feet. Kigawa said the pandemic hasn’t changed what Chi Alpha does, but it has changed how the group operates.
“We’ve been doing mostly the same things we would normally do but in smaller groups, 10 or less and outside when possible to limit contact with large groups of people,” Kigawa said. “We also have been making sure that we always wear masks and socially distance during regular activities like small group Bible studies, services and hangouts.”
Other organizations, such as the Black Student Unionat IU, have also moved previously in-person social events to an entirely online format.
“Usually, we start our semester with an on-campus meet and greet,” Arianna Hoye, secretary of BSU, said. “We usually do different activities for new members to get to know the executive board. We’re going to do what we usually do, just over Zoom.”
The upcoming election has encouraged some on-campus organizations, such as BSU and College Democrats at IU, to focus their virtual events on the current political arena. For BSU, online voter registration initiatives are an event to safely expand their club’s outreach, Hoye said. BSU is starting our "Let’s Get Political" campaignSept. 1.
“We’re trying to focus on voter registration and advocacy due to the hindrances that have been put on federal voting this year for the upcoming election," Hoye said. It’s something that we can do virtually, and we’re planning on sending out information about voting by mail and things of that nature.”
College Democrats at IU have also centered their virtual events this semester on the upcoming election. The club is involved in a virtual competition between all College Democrats chapters in the state over which university can reach out to the most college students via text, Sam Waterman, an officer for the club, said. The club has also used group phone banking to stay engaged in the election.
“We’re also hosting virtual phone banking opportunities quite regularly, which is where you cold-call voters and ask them who they’re going to support in the election and guiding them towards a particular candidate,” Waterman said.
In addition to statewide outreach, the club is looking to offer more remote opportunities for IU students to connect with each other aside from the election, Waterman said.
“At our meetings, we usually have different events,” Waterman said. “We’re going to try to have speakers come virtually this year, and we’re also looking into doing events like trivia and online Jeopardy where we build community.”
Other organizations, such as Kelley Student Government, have made the decision to not have any in-person events to allow off-campus students to participate. The Kelley Carnival involvement fair, which was last week, was entirely online.
“We’ve made the decision that every event that happens within Kelley this semester has to be done virtually,” Bradley said. “That was done from an equity and inclusion perspective, because it’s not fair for students who decided to not live on campus for health and safety reasons to not have the same experience that all students are having.”
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