Since the beginning of fall semester, clubs have been finding ways to make the most of events they are able to host despite the limitations posed by virtual programming, at times being forced to move away entirely from their traditional events.
Although the University slowly began allowing in-person events on Oct. 5 — with the stipulation that the event hosts no more than 10 people and is chaperoned by a faculty or staff member — many student clubs don’t foresee a return to extensive in-person programming.
“Because almost all of our exec board is remote — there is one member in Atlanta — it would be difficult for us to coordinate in-person activities,” ChEmory President Alex Kim (21C) said, although in-person programming for first-year students remains a possibility.
Emory Chinese Theater Club (ECTC) Co-President Beichen Yu (22B) emphasized that he would be concerned about the safety of club members and the audience if the group could resume in-person plays.
“We know how severe COVID is and we don’t want anyone who is in danger because of our activities or productions,” he said. “Our health is more important than anything in the club.”
President of Emory Pawsitive Outreach Sanjana Das (21C) also raised concerns about the feasibility of planning in-person events despite getting the green light from the University.
“We can’t really do dog focused or cat focused activities where we bring dogs to the campus because of those concerns with COVID,” Das said. “Because if you have like 100 people petting the same dog, that’s really hard to control.” The club is considering socially-distanced events such as pumpkin carving, however.
When the University transitioned to online learning in March, ECTC decided they would postpone their spring production to the fall semester, when students returned to campus. However, as COVID-19 cases accelerated over the summer and Emory decided to dramatically reduce housing capacity, it became clear to Yu that a fall in-person production would be unlikely.
“We strongly rely on face-to-face interactions, with practicing, planning and directing, to be in person, to express our feelings and convey our ideas to the audience,” Yu said. “It is almost impossible for us to do an online Zoom production or show or drama.”
ECTC performs a play that showcases Chinese culture once a semester, so canceling the fall show was an especially difficult decision. However, instead of a single production, ECTC is planning to have an online showcase in late October, featuring short audio or audio-visual productions by five to eight teams.
Emory Pakistani Students Association (PSA), which mainly hosts cultural events, faced similar decisions about programming as well. Like ECTC, PSA has to produce their largest annual play, “Jhalak,” online. The 2020 production will now happen later in the fall semester over Zoom. The 2021 production is currently slated for April 2021.
Some clubs, however, engage solely in in-person activities that don’t have virtual substitutes. ChEmory, a club whose members perform chemistry demonstrations around Atlanta, has had to look for alternatives.
“We have pivoted to academics. We are hosting professor talks, grad student and med student panels and we have started a journal club,” Kim said. “So the idea is that, as opposed to doing what we normally do, we have pivoted to doing what we can do, just with technological limitations.”
For Outdoor Emory, finding online substitutes for regular activities is impossible. Outdoor Emory had to cancel the Student Outdoor Adventure Retreat, the three-day adventure trip for incoming first-year students before the start of orientation.
“We are adapting to the best of our ability,” Outdoor Emory President Zachary Mendolla (21B) said. Outdoor Emory is planning a speaker series and is going to try to distribute merchandise to students on campus.
Building Community During COVID-19
“I know that no one really wants to be on more Zoom meetings,” President of Emory Cooking Club Riya Mehta (22C) said, speaking about the difficulties of interacting with students in a virtual setting. Mehta hopes that her plans to hold cooking classes and “Chopped-style” cooking competitions will make the club more interactive.
“We are all lonely,” Mehta said. “We are all working so hard in school and we want cooking Club to be a break for people.”
Club presidents have also been trying to actively check in on members.
“We started doing one-on-ones with our members to make sure that everyone was OK,” Emory Entrepreneurship & Venture Management (EEVM) co-president Veena Jaipradeep (21B) said. “We do expect a lot of our members of EEVM, so I think the one-on-ones provided them with a space to feel comfortable enough to tell us what was going on and for us to take a step back — this is just a club, bigger things are going on.”
Effects of SAF decrease
Most clubs stated that due to the limitations on in-person programming, the decrease in their budgets has not affected them as severely as it would have.
PSA Co-President Rafey Khan (21C) said the decrease in their budget hasn’t affected their operations because most of their budget went toward buying food for events.
Serena El-Khatib (21C), president of a capella group Aural Pleasure, said that while the reduction in budget hasn’t stopped their plans, it may have “minimized them just a bit.”
Aural Pleasure plans to use its budget to send tapes of members recording themselves individually to a recording studio to get it professionally mixed, and El-Khatib said that had the budget not been reduced, they would have been able to do more such recordings.