As classes and other university departments proceed with adapted operations, student organizations, like The Daily Campus, have also adjusted their functions to continue providing for the student body despite being off-campus. We feature what a few of these clubs and groups have been doing since UConn has transitioned to virtual capacities, with many turning to similar solutions in hopes of engaging the community.
“All of our branches continue to function,” Walter Dodson, eighth-semester political science and philosophy double major, said in an email. He serves as Chief of Staff to the President for the Undergraduate Student Government (USG). “The judiciary still meets, albeit dealing with fewer funding appeals. The Senate has already had two meetings where there were significant by-law and Constitutional changes. The Office of the President and the Executive branch is continuing to plan, advocate and lead as well.”
USG’s four standing committees have been working on initiatives specific to issues that have arisen because of the quarantine.
“The Academic Affairs Committee is working on an online version of a finals care fair,” Brandon Jones, a sixth-semester physiology and neurobiology major and USG Academic Affairs Chairperson, said in an email. The finals care guide will include “an aggregate of resources and study tips.” The committee is also working on creating a “succinct advertisement” about the university’s pass/fail policy and how it applies to each individual school.
“[A]s of today, we have written a letter to President [Katsouleas] that addresses the opt-in p/f policy, that there should be consistency from the undergraduate to graduate/professional level and urging him to ensure that our undergraduate students who choose to convert their courses won’t be hurt should they choose to apply and continue their education at UConn graduate/professional programs,” Jones said.
Dodson described the USG’s overall response to the increased discrimination towards the Asian community.
“[W]e are all working on an anti-racism campaign for COVID-19 related abuses,” Dodson said, addressing the numerous documented instances of Asian students being “verbally abused and accosted by other students, members of the community and healthcare workers.” “This is unacceptable…We are working with the Asian American Cultural Center to develop a social media campaign that is going to stretch over the Summer and into the Fall.”
The Student Union Board of Governors (SUBOG) addressed the challenges of transitioning to a new board of leaders, which was finalized before spring break, while online.
“For now, we are doing virtual transition meetings,” Adelyn Lotito, an eighth-semester marketing major and SUBOG President, said in an email. She mentioned how the new board usually goes on a weekend retreat to get to know one another, but the experience had to be pushed off for now. For their weekly 1:1 meetings, the new leaders meet with their successors to ease into the roles. “We have been using FaceTime and Google Meet for those meetings and find those to be easy and user-friendly.”
While many of their events for the second half of the semester have had to be canceled or postponed, such as UCONNIC, SUBOG has been looking forward to next year during the new board’s weekly virtual meetings.
“Essentially, they have just kicked into gear pre-planning for the fall,” Lotito said, and attributed their advisors’ helpfulness during this time. “They [SUBOG’s advisors] are meeting on occasion with the new board members and are creating some ‘how-to’ training videos to keep in our organization shared drive for simple administrative tasks.”
Both USG and SUBOG have turned to social media to keep students engaged with virtual events and initiatives.
“…[W]e are working on brainstorming ideas for online events for the rest of the semester!” Lotito said about the current board’s duties. They are soliciting suggestions and ideas from the student body as well. “We started with a social media calendar to keep the student body engaged with fun activities via our Instagram account and are hoping to roll out some fun online events in the next few weeks.”
Some of SUBOG’s Instagram activities have included a “Netflix bracket,” in which students can vote on their favorite TV series that the group has pitted against each other, as well as some self-care videos featuring how to make your own face masks.
USG is using a “days of the week” social media template on the group’s Instagram, with each of the days dedicated to a respective committee.
“The Student Services Committee has created ‘Wellness Wednesdays’ where we inform and engage students on our advocacy work ranging from mental health and wellness to food insecurity to recreation to sustainability,” Abishek Gupta, an eighth-semester biology, sociology and Spanish triple major, said. He serves as chairperson of USG’s Student Services Committee.
Based on “interaction, proactivity, conversations and engagement among students,” USG’s Student Development committee’s typical initiatives and events have been difficult to take online, but they have been working on a few in their last few virtual meetings.
“April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and with the help of the Women’s Center, we’ve been able to bring awareness to this issue through our social media campaign that began just a week ago,” Sofia Rodriguez, a fourth-semester women, gender and sexuality studies major, said in an email. As vice chair of the committee and a Garrigus senator, she has been working with the chairperson, Alexandra Aponte, and the rest of the committee on their remote initiatives such as the aforementioend Sexual Assault Awareness #VISIBILITY social media campaign. “The purpose is to not only raise awareness, but to give our students suggestions on how to navigate certain situations in order to make every single person on our campus feel seen, validated, heard and most importantly: safe.”
In addition, Rodriguez discussed the committee’s “We Are UConn” social media campaign, focused on “visibility and inclusivity.”
“With the help of our Public Relations Director, we developed an Instagram Story format that is titled ‘I am [blank], I am UConn’,” Rodriguez said, explaining how the blank space is for students to write in a component of their identity. “Even though we’re not physically on campus, we want to continue to foster ties between our Huskies, and keep living by our mission statement.”
Reaching out to the community, Dodson asks people to “be courageous” during this time.
“Things are bad for so many of us,” he said, mentioning how some have lost those close to them, or might have “gotten through relatively unscathed” so far. “I implore everyone to have the courage to take care of one another … One of the things I’ve learned on this campus over four years is that we are all in this struggle together. And it is from that sense of community where we draw our strength. I hope we can all draw strength from this community and remind each other that there are better days to come.”
Many other student organizations have successfully adapted to online operations for the time being, which we hope to feature in the coming weeks.
Hollie Lao is a staff writer and the social media manager for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.