Getting involved virtually: what campus clubs will look like during COVID-19

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On May 15, Wilfrid Laurier University announced its overall approach for the fall 2020 semester amidst continuing developments surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic — with the majority of undergraduate and graduate courses planned to take place virtually.

As many in-person classes will be shifted to remote-learning formats, there have been questions raised about the status of clubs and associations on campus and the impact that current restrictions will have on students who are interested in getting involved. 

“Everything is virtual this semester, and that results in all clubs being online,” said Graham Falconer, Students’ Union vice-president clubs and associations. 

“As far as my role goes, I’m still working in the same capacity, I’m still assisting all clubs on a regular basis and helping them with their training and facilitation of their clubs, the only thing that’s changed this semester is how I’m accessing them.” 

Although the structure for clubs and associations will be different this upcoming term than it has been in past years, there will still be support and assistance available for students who need any guidance.

“So all of the training this September will just be online, usually I would have office hours where people would be able to come in and see me on a regular basis but it’s all through email and Zoom calls — which I’ve already had a numerous number with different clubs as well,” Falconer said. 

Laurier’s annual Orientation Week is also being held in a virtual capacity, and a concern that has accompanied this change, especially amongst incoming first-year students, has been the overall accessibility of club recruitment. 

“We are working on a clubs fair, typically during a normal Orientation Week there is an in-person clubs fair, we’re working at adapting that online. I know that we will be having [more] discussions on adapting that to a virtual setting, which will hopefully get a lot of first-year students out,”  Falconer said. 

“It’s also just about making ourselves present and aware, the students who are coming in are going to be experiencing a different first-year than any other class before because predominately, they’re not going to be on campus, they’re not going to be interacting with people in person.”

Questions about funding for clubs and associations have been raised, as there will be limitations with the events, socials and fundraising activities that students will be able to organize and engage in. 

“We can anticipate that it will be lower than in previous years, but I hold no qualms in saying that I believe that we can support every club that we have — there won’t be an issue with supporting clubs or not,” Falconer said. 

Every fall in the weeks after Orientation Week, students have had the opportunity to attend mandatory president and financial training workshops hosted by clubs and associations. It’s planned to continue this year, just delivered in a different way.

“We’re probably going to break it down a little more. So typically we’re able to just get everyone in one room, but since everything is going to be virtual, we’ll probably break it up and do one session on faculty and associations, one with faculty and association clubs and one with just SU clubs,” Falconer said. 

The hope for this altered strategy is that it will help lessen any anxiety students may be feeling about transitioning into a primarily online-focused academic year that will rely heavily on video conferencing with large groups of people. 

“I think that will alleviate some stress when dealing with things like Zoom, instead of having 200 people in one call, we’re breaking it down and we’re going to be able to interact on a more personal [level] and be able to answer questions more quickly,” Falconer said. 

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