All recognized University of Richmond student organizations can now hold in-person on-campus meetings that follow physical distancing guidelines, according to an email sent to students by the Center for Student Involvement on Sept. 16.
The email outlined the guidelines and responsibilities that student organizations have to follow to have a member-only in-person meeting.
Alison Keller, director of CSI, said she and the rest of the CSI team had recognized how important student organizations were to the happiness of students and so had written the guidelines to give organizations the opportunity to safely have in-person meetings.
Student organizations can have meetings of 25 or fewer registered members in approved outdoor locations, according to the guidelines in the email. These locations include the tents on the intramural field basketball courts, Richmond College tennis courts, Stern Plaza, intramural fields and the Greek Theater, according to the Sept. 16 email. Additionally, meetings must take place between 4 and 10 p.m. on weekdays and 12 and 7 p.m. on weekends, according to an email sent by CSI to students on Sept. 28.
“We had to work around both the dining demand of places for students to be able to grab [their meals] and go ... and then to be able to not interfere with an interest among faculty to be outside,” Keller said about the limited hours.
Students cannot distribute food or drinks at meetings until CSI decides the safest way to do so without potentially spreading COVID-19, Keller said.
All students must remain six feet apart during meetings and, although face coverings are not required, they are encouraged, according to the Sept. 16 email.
Student organizations also need to pick up a sanitation kit from CSI before any scheduled meetings, according to the Sept. 16 email. The kit contains sanitation wipes, a reminder card of the expectations for meetings and a card swipe reader so members can swipe into meetings for contact tracing purposes, Keller said.
“Our goal is to set everybody up for success, rather than to find yourself in a situation where you’re frustrated because you didn’t know [what the guidelines were],” Keller said.
If the guidelines are not followed, organizations will not be allowed to book spaces for the rest of the fall semester and their funds will be suspended, according to the Sept. 16 email.
If the guidelines are followed, student organizations will hopefully be able to have meetings with up to 100 people once UR moves into the Orange Phase of the COVID-19 safety protocol, if they have followed the guidelines in previous meetings, Keller said.
Some organizations such as Spiderboard have already held in-person meetings, SpiderBoard president and senior Colin Sparkevicius said.
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SpiderBoard's first in-person meeting was on Sept. 21 under the Stern Plaza tent, Sparkevicius said. He called the meeting successful.
“I don’t think it would have been as successful and interactive of a meeting if it had been on Zoom, just from the kind of prior Zoom meetings we were facing,” Sparkevicius said. “I think we had a lot of fun; we had a lot of excitement around seeing each other again, and the things we did were all pretty collaborative and [I] think lent itself well to being in-person again.”
Sparkevicius said although Zoom had been productive for smaller committee meetings, it would be more difficult for larger group meetings.
“It’s easier to kind of hide [on Zoom], and so I think the advantage that being in-person lends us was that we didn’t really have to face that anymore,” Sparkevicius said. “We could all see each other face-to-face; we could all talk without having to take turns of talking like Zoom.”
For now, SpiderBoard will continue to have meetings in person, Sparkevicius said.
“We might reconsider as time goes on, because Mondays at seven, even though it's really only the middle of September, is pretty cold by the end of the night,” Sparkevicius said.
Other organizations have not yet met in person but plan to do so. Planned Parenthood Generation Action communication coordinator junior Sophie Hardten said she and other members of the organization were looking forward to the possibility of seeing each other in person.
“I think for our first meeting we’re just going to do more of a social get-together," Hardten said. "Obviously under the guidelines, but we want to make sure people know who’s in the club and who we are and what we’re going to do."
Planned Parenthood Generation Action will most likely take a hybrid approach to meetings this year, for which its educational skill-shares will be over Zoom and its bonding meetings will be in person, Hardten said.
Keller said CSI would work hard so as many student organizations as possible could continue to have in-person meetings that complied with the COVID-19 safety protocols.
“We know that student organization engagement and involvement contributes to the satisfaction and the happiness quotient for students,” Keller said. “We wanted to try to ... provide those opportunities [for in-person meetings] so students could start to really get to know each other and create community in a safe place.”
Contact news writer Maeve McCormick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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