Much like the empty Slippery Rock University campus, The Suite in the Smith Student Center has been closed until further notice, making it more difficult for student organizations to conduct business and function in general.
With spring break being extended and a confusion around classes starting back up, student organizations have had to adjust to a virtually-based way of meeting and making decisions. Though less convenient than in person, organizations such as the University Program Board (UPB) have begun to work through Zoom and e-boards.
“We’ve never really done virtual event planning,” said University Program Board (UPB) President Celine Halt. “Everything we do, whether it be the concert, a speaker, or a common hour event, they all take place on campus. So this is definitely the first time we’ve had to think outside the box as to how can we entertain our students while still doing those things, just from a different location.”
Some organizations, such as the Student Government Association (SGA), are also somewhat uncertain on how to proceed with elections, which, Director of Student Engagement and Leadership Lauren Moran said are typically held toward the end of March or early April.
“It can certainly impact from a campaigning standpoint or if people’s elections were during business meetings, what does that look like?” Moran said.
That’s where an online elections feature comes in. Moran explained that organizations can enter their own portals within CORE, craft ballots, and post information about candidates and selection of staff online. They can then set permissions to allow members of the organization to vote or the entire student body. In the past, Moran said, this feature has been used mainly for Homecoming and university-wide voting in deciding things such as seats for SGA.
“It’s a perfect time to take advantage of something like that feature on CORE, being so far apart from everyone,” Moran said. “But they can still hold their elections semi-normally through that process.”
Moran and her office are currently in the process of drafting an email to show student organizations how they can internally conduct their elections. The office has been in steady contact with organizations.
“We’ve sort of ramped up our communication with student organizations,” Moran said. “Typically, we do once-a-month emails or [for] the big things. But, since the university extended the spring break, we’ve sent out about four communications to student organization presidents, treasurers and advisors.”
Such communications have relayed initial FAQs of event cancellations and planning procedures, support from the office with helpful links, and encouragement to organizations to continue functioning. SGA’s Katelynn Hazlett, Moran added, sent out an email to treasurers about the fall budgeting process, which has been slightly delayed.
Moran also plans on sending an email regarding things that organizations can do in a virtual environment. Another feature she pointed out is the online event locations, where student organizations can place a link to Zoom or Google Hangouts in the event details. Her plan is to send a weekly update, just to regularly communicate with the organizations.
The biggest obstacle, Moran said, is event cancellations. She added that April tends to be the busiest month for student organization events and that she is leading a committee of staff, with representatives from SGA and UPB, to figure out what student involvement will look like in the rest of the semester.
“A lot of people are brainstorming, ‘How can we rethink events that we may have had planned?’” Moran said, later using Fraternity and Sorority Life’s idea of its Epic Bingo event possibly becoming virtual as an example.
UPB, Halt said, has explored rescheduling events, or finding alternate locations or different ways in which to hold them.
“We’re looking at, if we’re doing our speaker […], do they have dates available?” Halt said. “Do we have dates available? Some of the smaller ones where we’re working within ourselves, like those common hour events or travel trips, those are much easier to re-do.”
The process of the Rising Star Awards, yearly honors for student organizations, will be continued and the nomination window has been extended until April 6. Student organization registration for the fall will be opened on April 15.
Assuming they continue to work, stipend organizations will be paid. Members of these organizations will have to fill out a weekly report to be filled out with what work had been done that week and approved by their advisor.
“Two weeks from now or three weeks from now, I think you’re going to see a very different ‘campus environment’ online, but you’ll see a lot more cool things coming out of student organizations,” Moran said.
Editor’s note: The Rocket is one of the organizations mentioned in this piece in which staff members (with the exception of our business department) receive stipends for their work.
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