By Johan Perez
Student organizations are getting back on their feet after over a year of remote learning, with many using this return as a rebuilding period.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, student organizations were forced to adapt their meetings and events to a nearly all-remote environment. For several organizations, this wasn’t something that was possible.
In Fall 2019, there were 46 recognized student organizations. This number dropped to 43 in Fall 2020.
Sara Gallegos, advisor of Student Government Association (SGA) and director of Student Involvement and Leadership Development (SILD), said the department had a goal of keeping “at least 75% [of the organizations] active until the end of Fall.”
During the full academic year of 2020-21, 34 of the 43 organizations that began in the Fall were still active at the end of the year.
As of Oct. 14, 2021, there were 33 recognized student organizations.
Senior Emma Sullivan, vice president of SGA, said, “Last year during COVID, we [SGA] saw the drop [in active organizations] and there were next to no funding requests for events.
“Now, we’re reaching out to the clubs, seeing if they need help, seeing how we can help them, and what events they want to do so we can rebuild that community on campus,” she said.
Sullivan added SGA would be “trying to build a new normal.”
Gallegos said this partnership with SGA would lead to a “rebuilding year” for general student
engagement. “I think everybody is in the mindset of, ‘We kind of have to start over a little bit,’” she said.
She added SILD is meeting with all of the organization officers to help with this new climate. Some club officers are experienced, but others are brand new to not only managing an organization, but learning to do so during a pandemic.
“It’s basically just reassuring everybody that it’s OK – we’re all just refreshing and doing what we want to do,” she said.
Some organizations struggled to adapt their meetings and events during the height of the pandemic, and are excited about returning to in-person gatherings.
Junior William Nee, technical chair of The Hilltop Players, said being remote was “really difficult because we weren’t able to have an audience for anything.
“For the Suit Jacket Posse, [the show] is 95% audience. The audience is what makes the shows what they are,” they said.
Nee also shared their excitement for being able to perform in front of a crowd again. “It’s really cool to have the audience back for that,” they said. “That’s basically what makes [the show] worth doing.”
Senior Sarah Sagan, president of the English and Gaming clubs, said she’s excited to have events with prizes in person be feasible again.
“Remotely, it’s fun too. They go off to some lucky winner,” said Sagan. “But when it’s in person, you get to see people actually get excited for participating in things and winning the prizes.”
Sagan said the prize for English Club’s fantasy short story contest in November will be a large stuffed dragon and she is “excited to see people’s reactions.”
Senior Tim Hodgdon, president of the Math Club, said the club sponsored multiple events throughout the remote period such as working together on Zoom to direct a person through an escape room and watching math-related movies like “Good Will Hunting.”
He said the organization is excited to be on campus and in person again. “We’re usually all hanging out in the lounge area around the math offices and the professors tell us how nice it is to see students out here working again.”
Junior Christie Jean, president of Pride Alliance, said the remote meetings were “nice, but it really wasn’t the same. She said while it was a safe space, in-person meetings are ideal.
“The energy is much better in person – you feel like you’re actually there and not just at a computer screen,” Jean said.
Senior Ryan Feinblatt, president of Comic Book Club and director of Best Buddies, said, “Given the opportunity to socialize again has become a great platform with both my organizations.”
In the spring, Comic Book Club held an event with Rob Paulsen, known for his voice work on several cartoons such as “Jimmy Neutron,” “Animaniacs,” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
“The Rob Paulsen event brought a lot more interest than I thought,” said Feinblatt.
He added there are several events and activities both clubs are planning to sponsor this year, such as trips to conventions and comic book stores for Comic Book Club, as well as fundraisers and charity walks for Best Buddies.
Some groups disbanded after the end of the Spring 2020 semester, and were inactive throughout the next academic year. Some of these organizations were restarted by students this semester.
Senior Ben Heath, vice president of Ski and Snowboard Club, said he worked with the current president
to revive the club after all its members graduated.
Heath contacted previous members and the advisor to get things started. “We took it over just last month. We’ve just been working and figuring out what we want to do,” he said.
Heath described things as “smooth sailing” so far. Plans for a trip in the spring semester are already in the works.
Carl Bergstrom, the Institutional Security Officer and advisor for both the Anime and Gaming clubs said it was sad that both clubs have to rebuild from the ground up.
He added he saw both clubs struggle to keep interest in a remote environment last year.
“The eBoards dissolved, and sadly with them, the clubs as well,” he said.
Both clubs have begun holding meetings again, but with entirely new eBoard rosters.
Some organizations had strong years, despite the challenges of a mostly remote academic
Senior Mia Ihagie, president of the Afro Caribbean Dance Group, said, “We couldn’t have any
performances and we couldn’t go to other schools, so we took the time out of our day to practice and get together.”
Since not everyone lived on campus, the group picked members up from their homes for practice. During this time, they also published a video performance.
“That video gave us a lot of media attention. Now, we have a lot of people who want us to travel to their schools or want us to go to their events and perform,” she added. “We didn’t think all of this would happen during COVID.”
The organization held multiple events on campus, such as a flash mob in the Dining Commons during dinner.
“We have two years of [students] who don’t know how college is and what it’s like,” she said. “We’re just trying to get things popping.”
Senior Donald Halsing, editor-in-chief of The Gatepost, said he was “happy that we were able to make it work.
“I’m really glad we were able to find a way to still produce a physical paper every week,” he said. The team could only have a fraction of itself in the office at a time, with the majority of staff writers and advisors meeting on Zoom, according to Halsing.
“It wasn’t easy to get everybody on the same page,” he said.
He added the energy was “completely different from past years” but they were able to persevere.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to be back on campus and talking to people in person,” Halsing said.
“Having that energy in the room when we come in on Monday and start talking – there’s this sense that we belong, and that we can do it.”
[Editor’s Note: Donald Halsing is Editor-in-Chief for The Gatepost.]