‘We just want to keep people engaged’: Student groups adjust to coronavirus cancellations

| Senior Editor

With the shutdown of campus due to coronavirus, Washington University student groups have had to cancel programming and figure out how to move forward with their organizations in an off campus capacity.

Photo by Grace Bruton

For student groups who rely on in-person meetings and events, the shift has been difficult. Whether in a social group, service organization or performing arts company, students have had to cope with the shutdown in different ways.

With no stage or audience to perform on, theatre and dance performances were canceled. While many said it was disappointing for students who put in hours of rehearsal, the cancellation was especially bittersweet for seniors.

“Being a senior, [the cancellation] has been very difficult, considering that was the last time a lot of us planned on performing for people who aren’t going on to professional careers,” senior India Shelley said. “Rehearsing four to five-plus hours a week for [the show]…It’s definitely sad that a lot of those pieces are never going to be seen on stage, both for everyone in the company and also the choreographers.”

Some performance groups, such as Student Dance Showcase (SDS), are looking into possibly rescheduling their events.

“We are working with the [Performing Arts Department] to see if there is a possibility of doing SDS in the fall semester, which has never been done before,” sophomore and SDS co-president Grace Philion said. “These four years are a huge opportunity for our choreographers to explore their own style of dance and have their work shown, as well as an opportunity for people to just have fun and dance with others who also love to dance. Regardless of whether this reschedule can happen, we are incredibly proud of all of the work our choreographers and dancers put into the semester…Not having a performance does not devalue that work and dedication that they put into the semester.”

Other student groups were also unable to move forward with scheduled events. KWUR radio cancelled their yearly event, KWUR Week, which they didn’t receive funding for last year.

Pre-professional organizations, like Alpha Kappa Psi, have been working on how to continue operating during an unprecedented pause.

“While the unexpected change in plans has caused us to cancel some of our programming this semester—including most of our new member education procedures and the fraternity formal—we’re working hard to keep members engaged through digital group events and Zoom calls,” Alpha Kappa Psi president senior Isaac Jacobson wrote in a statement to Student Life. “Especially in a time when many students are feeling uncertain about the future and somewhat alone, it’s very important that we create a network of support and positivity, even if we have to do so remotely.”

Social fraternities and sororities have cancelled philanthropy events, formals and bonding events. However, some organizations have found creative ways to keep in contact with each other virtually and make the most of the situation.

“Instead of having chapter, [the newsletter] is our way of spreading information and keeping people engaged…,” Chi Omega president sophomore Dani Worthalter said. “In terms of making sure we’re maintaining sisterhood, exec has been planning events via Zoom; we’re having our yearly brunch this weekend via Zoom.”

As the semester continues, groups will have to keep adjusting to the new format of online meetings and events. Worthalter added that the Chi Omega chapter has been using a weekly newsletter and online Zoom events to keep in touch with each other.

“We just want to keep people engaged,” Worthalter said. “We want to make sure that the seniors feel special and also that the new members can get a feel of the community even though we’re not on campus.”

Until organizations are able to return to normalcy on campus, Jacobson noted that the virtual relationships members have with each other are important during this time.

“One of the best things about purpose-driven student groups is that members form real friendships with each other,” Jacobson said. “Which is incredibly helpful in getting through tough times like these.”

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