Student organizations faced with changes amid COVID-19

In order to continue operating per their original intentions while remaining COVID-19 safe, Lawrence University’s student organizations have had to rapidly adapt and adjust their plans for this term. While the university intends to partially reopen, provided coronavirus testing numbers remain low, student organizations will continue to implement their new plans in the meantime. 

For some groups, like Lawrence’s Creative Writing Club, the transition was not too strenuous; meetings changed from in-person to virtual. For others, such as the Baking and Cooking Club, the transition has required more creativity. 

The clearest difficulty to student organizations is that the situation is constantly changing and is liable to change dramatically at any moment. Greg Griffin, the university’s Director of Student Organizations and Greek Life, explained the situation as being fluid; if the number of cases remain low, the university intends to open additional spaces. These spaces include areas within Warch Campus Center and the Somerset Room specifically, which will be opened for small groups and University programming as well as for student organizations to reserve. Additionally, the Office of Student Organizations is providing each student organization with a liaison, so that each group has a contact to reach out to if they have questions or need advice on navigating the new challenges presented by coronavirus. 

Despite these plans, Griffin was careful to stress two caveats. First, this will be a gradual process, not an overnight reopening. Second, all these changes are contingent on the number of positive tests remaining low; if there is a spike in cases, the partial reopening will be reversed. 

Creative Writing Club is one of many student organizations forced to transition to a distanced approach. In the past, the group has met in-person to share writings and collaborate. However, this is no longer possible due to COVID-19, and the club has transitioned to meeting on the online platform Discord. 

The Creative Writing Club president, junior Jeff Mason explained, “We’ve been focusing on what we can manage over the internet, figuring out what elements of an in-person meeting we can duplicate or that we can manufacture differently online, and we’ve had a good turnout this year.” Mason continued, “Overall, I think the term has started off on a good note because everyone’s in the same situation right now.”

While Creative Writing Club’s format made for a relatively smooth transition, other clubs —such as Lawrence’s Baking and Cooking Club — had to get creative to preserve their purpose while remaining safe. Due to social distancing guidelines, it is no longer possible to congregate in large groups to cook and eat meals together. 

“[Planning for COVID] was really difficult for us to figure out,” the club’s president, senior Rachel Robrecht, said. “The whole point of our club is we get together, and you’re in a kitchen together, and you cook and you eat food together, which you really cannot do right now. So, the main thing we’re doing this term is we have a newsletter that we’re putting out every week where we’re trying to do things that are baking and cooking related.” 

Typical content for this newsletter might include reviews of food from Andrew Commons and recipes that can easily be made in a dorm; for instance, Robrecht suggested a mug-cake. In the future, they plan to review cooking shows and channels, so that there is some form of shared content for the members of the Baking and Cooking Club. The club is also tentatively planning to make food-related care packages for members of the Lawrence community in quarantine — provided that first, testing numbers remain low; second, that it is safe to cook for others; and third, that the school approves this plan. 

Lawrence’s social distancing guidelines have required all student organizations to adapt to the unprecedented challenges that coronavirus presents, whether that means moving an existing format to an online platform or radically altering the appearance and structure of the organization’s activities. Going forward, Griffin says it will be necessary for clubs to continue to be fluid, as the situation is constantly changing and evolving.

For more information about Baking and Cooking Club, email junior Kat Workin, the club’s secretary, at kathryn.g.workin@lawrence.edu. 

Creative Writing Club meets at 3:00 p.m. Central Time on Sundays on their Discord server. For more information, the co-leaders Mason and sophomore Olivia Sibbet can be contacted at jeffrey.j.mason@lawrence.edu. 

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