Scholarship applications and essay reviews have become the new normal for students involved with Movimiento Estudiantil Progressive Action (MEPA). According to Maricela Deveney, the group’s community organizer, Zoom fatigue has led the group to get creative with discussion after events planned months in advance were postponed or moved to digital formats due to the spread of COVID-19.
“I think shifting to online has been difficult, especially since we all tend to interact in person usually through meetings and I think another thing that I’ve been kind of hesitant on even doing Zoom meetings is because now we are in Zoom for class, for everything,” Deveney said. “So, I think there is like I think some people are ‘Zoomed’ out.”
Along with collaboratively working on scholarship applications and sharing essays for one another to review, the group has also reached out to Migrant Education Program to help with tutoring and are partnered with Visíon 2C Resource Council and PODER of Idaho to get face masks to farmworkers in Idaho.
MEPA is not alone. Groups working to provide outreach to its members and students include the Multicultural Student Services (MSS), Intertribal Native Council (INC) and the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion.
Francisco Salinas, the director of the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion, has worked with different student groups to transition to an online community.
“The content [of the meetings]has changed a lot because originally it was about having students practice their communication with authority figures, or representatives of the institution, about the things they are navigating and classes on campus,” Salinas said. “A lot of it has not even been by design but because of what the needs are, a lot of it has evolved into students talking about coping with the current situation.”
One of the original events MSS had planned was to get together to have people sign a petition to have Cesar Chavez’s birthday be recognized as a national holiday, but the event had to be moved online, according to Ro Parker, coordinator of Multicultural Student Services.
The events for the week after spring break were moved online to the MSS Facebook page where they asked people to sign the petition.
“The attendance, of course, was not as great as it had been in person,” Parker said. “I’m not really sure why people didn’t attend; I think it would be interesting to have a survey that would ask people.”
One of the largest annual events INC hosts is the Seven Arrows Powwow, which was supposed to occur for the 27th year in a row on April 25 and 26.
The event was postponed for the fall, but no official date has been set due to conflicts with sports and prior scheduled events in the spaces they were considering, according to INC president Tanyka Begaye. The group has had problems in the past with having the event on the DeChevrieux field as well as the intramural field due to guidelines set in place.
“We are trying to figure out what our venue is going to be because in the past years when we tried to do it outside not only was the weather a problem, but it was also trying to figure out how we were going to do it,” Begaye said.
Due to the uncertainty of the fall semester being in-person or continuing online, Begaye and her team are working on a backup location in April 2021 when they would normally have it, according to Begaye.
The Native Stole Ceremony is for graduating indigenous and Native students to recognize their achievements during their time at the university and is still happening virtually for those students who are graduating on May 5 via Facebook. Another stole ceremony being moved to an online form is the Latinx ceremony that also works to highlight graduating Latinx students.
Although the groups are still gathering and meeting virtually, students’ health and well-being are a top priority, according to Parker.
“We let it [the meetings]be what it needed to be,” Parker said. “So, instead of forcing it and saying, ‘well, it needs to be this thing that we had planned’ we want to be really responsive to the student needs.”