Some of the largest and most integral student organizations on campus are in the midst of reexamining their responsibilities and goals for the fall semester. From the Students Activities Association (SAA) and the Big Event to RebelTHON and the Columns Society, student leaders are finding new ways to fulfill the purposes of their organizations.
Trevor Davis, the executive director of the Students Activities Association (SAA), used Welcome Week as an example when saying that some of SAA’s events will take place on campus, while others are on Zoom.
“We don’t want to make it seem like you have to leave the safety of your dorm or your house if you don’t want to, but you can still enjoy campus programming, so we did do some virtual stuff,” Davis said. “I think it’s something that’s also gonna continue throughout the year as well as, like us just developing other kinds of creative ways to tackle this problem.”
Davis said that while SAA is adapting as many events as possible to a virtual or CDC-approved setting, traditional events such as the concerts, the silent disco and the Miss University pageant are cancelled.
“Our concerts are always a big part of SAA. That’s just a big part of our programming every year,” Davis said. “It’s what a lot of people look forward to, and I have no clue what the future looks like for those concerts as far as this year goes.”
Davis said his goal in SAA is to make sure students are still having fun, even if it’s an event on Zoom.
“I think students are kind of sick of hearing the word ‘virtual’ over and over again. We don’t want to have just a bunch of people on a Zoom call,” Davis said. “We just want to make sure that there are really fun things for them to do.”
Cade Slaughter, president of the Columns Society, said many of the events Columns Society usually works on have been cancelled or postponed, but they are focusing on community strengthening within the group and preparing for any events that may present themselves.
“We assisted the Student Affairs Office in the Lyceum in assembling and distributing the care packages around campus the first week of school,” Slaughter said. “That was an event in many regards that allowed us to roll up our sleeves and find a sense of normalcy while wearing the navy blazer.”
Slaughter said that although the events calendar is fairly bare right now, the Columns Society has still been able to work a select few events.
“We were able to help greet people at the Inn this weekend when Dr. Deborah Birx visited,” Slaughter said. “That was an event for us that presented itself just a few days before.”
Brianna Chambers, the president of RebelTHON, said that making things virtual should not affect funding for RebelTHON, given that the main platform they receive donations through is DonorDrive.
“Our fundraising will still depend upon our amazing participants who reach out to their support system for donations,” Chambers said. “There are social-media focused fundraising campaigns that should come out soon.”
Chambers also said that she’s hopeful for the dance marathon to still take place in the spring semester, and she is working closely with the staff at the student union to explore options like having shifts for people to sign up and attend while following social distancing protocols.
“We all know how important the dance marathon is to our Miracle Kids and our participants who have worked hard fundraising all year,” Chambers said.
Slaughter, who is also one of the co-directors of the Big Event, said that while the Big Event is a long ways away, he’s waiting to hear about how spring programming will go before making any concrete plans.
“For now, we’re reshaping the way our executive board works and focusing on both highlighting community partners in the next few months and organizing service projects that can be done in small groups through the work of our exec board members and the members who will eventually be on our subcommittees for Big Event,” Slaughter said.
Davis said that he’s feeling optimistic about the rest of the year and how student organizations are going to adapt.
“We’re going to approach this like a unique challenge, and we’re going to make the best of it. We recognize our responsibility as an event planning organization. Just because all this stuff is going on, that doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to do our jobs,” Davis said. “We’re still going to provide stuff for students to do, whether that’s on campus or on their computers.”