With one semester under our belts and another one to go for the 2021-2022 school year, we’ve hit yet another roadblock: the omicron variant. Just when we thought the reign of COVID-19 was finally over, this new variant showed its face and reinforced the initial intensity of the virus. And while all of Virginia Wesleyan University has definitely encountered the effects of this variant, our clubs and student organizations have possibly faced the worst of it.
“In the fall semester, we had a lot more freedom regarding events, but now, in this semester, a lot of that freedom has been taken away,” Off the Hook member Hannah Carmona said. “Student organizations can no longer plan events, which puts more stress on event planning on Off The Hook, Marlin Ministries and other primary event holders on campus.”
The events put on by VWU’s clubs and student organizations are arguably the factor that brings the entire campus community together, so putting those on hold drastically strains the campus as a whole.
“The student involvement, energy and enjoyability of Marlin Ministries has decreased over the past few years in response to COVID and the COVID guidelines,” Marlin Ministries leader Isabel Laxton said. “Worrying about guidelines being followed sometimes makes it difficult for leaders and students to be fully present and enjoy the event experiences like they were able to in the past. Forming personal connections is also more difficult when everyone is masked and socially distanced, as they make it hard to both hear and see people.”
Like the students, faculty and visitors of VWU, the events held by our clubs and student organizations must also follow social distancing guidelines and mask requirements. Along with this, clubs and organizations are often encouraged to meet virtually rather than holding in-person gatherings.
“Now, we have a lot more restrictions especially pertaining to social distancing, [which], I think, is a huge problem,” Carmona said. “People are going to be around each other; it is bound to happen on a college campus. By [creating] restrictions pertaining to social distancing in the cafe and at events, I believe the school is creating issues with mental health. I don’t think they realize the effects of what their actions cause for students. It comes down to the question of which is more important: mental health or physical health?”
While it is no secret that the effects of COVID-19 and its consequential restrictions have proven detrimental to VWU’s students and campus community, there is still hope for the spring semester.
The spring semester guidelines for student organizations and clubs are as follows: meet virtually for recurring events and meetings, host virtual events and student activities, host masked and socially-distanced tabling events in the Jane P. Batten Student Center, attend and participate in on-campus events together as a student organization or club and check out UREC equipment to use in the Jane P. Batten Student Center.
This semester, clubs and organizations are still allowed to gather in person as long as the updated COVID-19 guidelines are being followed. Despite this, virtual meetings and events are highly encouraged.
“The easiest way to gather safely within the guidelines is to attend campus events that are already planned for you,” Director of Student Activities Sarah Guzzo said. “For example, if Off The Hook is planning a Disney Trivia Night in the Grille, Disney Club should plan to attend together and dominate Trivia Night.”
Although nobody is thrilled about the new COVID-19 restrictions surrounding our student activities, events and day-to-day life, guidelines are put in place to keep our campus community safe and allow us to return to normal sooner rather than later.
“[Student organizations and clubs] all have to pay a $200 student activities fee, and I always say that it’s my job to use that money wisely and give it back to the students through free stuff and free fun,” Carmona said. “So come to events!”
Be sure to take advantage of the student activities and events that our clubs and organizations are able to hold this semester. Together, we can make the best out of the rest of this school year!
By Carey Seay