The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of shifts for clubs and organizations across campus, including a complete move to online meetings or a pause on meetings all together. However, some clubs can’t be shifted to an online format, which means new precautions had to be taken to stay in person and stay safe.
Joseph Richey, president of Weber State University’s Big Band Swing Dancing Club, found himself trying to keep his club safe.
The Big Band Swing Dancing Club at Weber State was set to begin hosting events in the spring of 2020. Those plans were altered when COVID-19 shifted everything to a virtual format in March.
The pandemic presented a challenge to more than just the Big Band Swing Dancing Club – most organizations have had to find different ways to connect with members and hold safe activities.
With increased safety measures and regulations, clubs and organizations at WSU have been given permission to hold in-person activities again.
The Big Band Swing Dancing Club took advantage of this privilege and held its first club meeting on Sept. 29 at Mount Ogden Park. The meeting was held both in-person and via Zoom.
At the beginning of the meeting, Richey presented the rules everyone would have to comply with in order to attend club events. These rules included a 50-person maximum attendance at any event, masks, social distancing and dancing with the same partner for the duration of the activity.
Some of these restrictions were put in place by the university, while others were decided by the club presidency as the best way to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Heather Cimino, coordinator of clubs and organizations at WSU, said, “We want students to still feel safe and comfortable on campus even with these additional guidelines and restrictions we have to follow.”
Cimino also said that she has been impressed with the response of the clubs and student leaders who are taking the situation seriously, even giving up some of the things they want to do, in order to keep their members safe.
Even with in-person activities being an option, some clubs have opted to stay virtual.
There are challenges of being mostly online, as well as positive outcomes from these changes. Shannon Stephens, the Spanish Club president, noted that Zoom events during the fall 2020 semester were better attended than in-person events before the pandemic.
“Now people can just stay home to join the meeting, which is really convenient,” Stephens said.
Ambassadors for the Entrepreneurship Club, including Ellie Fochtman, have an assignment to contact professors and attend virtual classes to promote the organization each week. Fochtman embraced the changes and is moving forward.
“We’ll adjust again when things calm down,” Fochtman said.
Similar sentiments were shared by the Student Alumni Association President Brianna Nordgren, who said, “We’re doing the best with what we have been given.”
Nordgren said she misses being able to connect with people on campus, and she is hopeful that more events can be held in-person soon.
With a majority of classes being online this semester, outreach has been a challenge for clubs.
“I definitely think we would have more members if we were connecting with people on campus,” Richey said.
Nordgren agreed that connection is harder online. “It is hard to reach new members,” she said. “People have to actually open an email and join a Zoom with strangers, and that just isn’t very likely.”
On the other hand, Cimino noticed that students are eager to be involved and that “there’s a desire from a large group of students that are craving that interaction and that in-person campus life.”
The question now is when will things change enough to allow for more involvement and in-person events on campus?
The answer is uncertain and the future of the COVID-19 pandemic is unpredictable. For now, clubs and organizations are being optimistic and using the resources available to provide recreational and academic experiences for WSU students.