Campus clubs navigate COVID guidelines to resume in-person meetings and activities

Student Involvement and Leadership Center in the Student Union Building on Boise State campus.
Photo by Patrick R. Kauffman

Many students come to Boise State in pursuit of intellectual and personal discoveries. One way for students to enrich their experience is to engage with student clubs and organizations that match their interests. 

Nearly 200 student clubs serve interests as diverse as the Artificial Intelligence Club, the Nuclear Engineering Club and the Dungeons and Broncos Club

As the campus community adjusts to social distancing requirements, finding other students with similar interests can be a challenge. Some clubs are exploring new and innovative ways to pursue their organization’s interests. 

The Theatre Majors Association (TMA) is one organization that is committed to creating a community of student artists with a shared passion for theatre. 

“Our organization is rooted in performance, and since the rise of COVID we have had to pivot and change what we bring to the community,” said Zoe Kelly, TMA publicity manager and junior theatre arts major. 

Student Involvement and Leadership Center in the Student Union Building on Boise State campus.
[Student Involvement and Leadership Center in the Student Union Building on Boise State campus]
Photo by Patrick R. Kauffman | The Arbiter

Kelly noted that Broadway’s closure in March of 2020 was an early indicator of the coming changes for theaters around the world.

“In the past we performed one-act shows in the Danny Peterson Theatre,” Kelly said. “But after the university closed in early 2020 we had to mimic what we saw in the professional industry to do fully costumed Zoom performances.” 

While the Zoom performances were difficult, they were also very rewarding and needed, Kelly said. With the university more open, the TMA is returning to meetings inside the Danny Peterson Theatre.

Coordinating in-person events both on and off-campus forces student clubs to navigate the balance between the university’s health guidelines and their own organizational goals.

Senior computer science major John Koenig leads the College Republicans at Boise State. The College Republicans hold tabling events on campus to share their conservative values. They will also attend political events like the Lincoln Day Banquet or the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

“We had to secure private funding to attend CPAC in Florida because the school wasn’t funding trips that were out of state,” Koenig said. 

Public contention over social distancing can also make it difficult to attend events that don’t follow Boise State’s social distancing guidelines.

“We can’t always control the way an event operates off campus, so that’s been a serious challenge,” Koenig said.

Tebraie Johns, the senior coordinator for student organization engagement at the Student Involvement and Leadership Center (SILC), understands how Zoom meetings and social distancing can affect student clubs.

“It’s harder for students because they’re frustrated with virtual events and having to be online,” Johns said. “We have a lot of student clubs who are eager to do events in person, and we encourage them to follow the university and public health office guidelines and to be safe.” 

Uncertainty about how the university might be forced to respond to future COVID outbreaks is a persistent factor in how student clubs and organizations plan their activities. 

Kelly said that the TMA’s contingency plans include a return to online meetings and performances. 

“Those Zoom meetings were really important during COVID as a way to get together, to hang out and decompress and have a snippet of normalcy,” Kelly said. 

One way that some clubs have adjusted is to schedule their meetings at outdoor locations like the Centennial Amphitheater, where students can social distance and remove their masks. 

“The last thing that students want to do after a day of classes is to come to an hour-long meeting and wear masks,” Koenig said of students in the College Republicans. 

Johns said that student organizations who are interested in finding meeting spaces like an academic classroom or a room in the Student Union Building can reach out to the SILC. 

“You can never bug us enough,” Johns said. “We’re here to support students to adapt to changing conditions, and we trust them to make good decisions when it comes to guidelines.”

Students who have questions about how to apply social distancing guidelines in their clubs can visit the Student Involvement and Leadership Center, located on the second floor of the Student Union Building.

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