BYUSA given approval for on-campus activities

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BYUSA Clubs Vice President Morgan Hartman works at her computer in the BYUSA office. BYU is allowing certain in-person club events in the upcoming semester. (Preston Crawley)

BYU administration gave student clubs approval to meet in person this Fall Semester under strict health and safety regulations.

A BYUSA in-person Bingo Night received approval from the administration Sept. 3 and will have a date for the event finalized once Risk Management gives their approval. This is the first on-campus student event that made it through the approval process BYU has in place for events during COVID-19.

Clubs remain valuable for students

Club area administrators will define safety precautions club presidencies must follow for on-campus activities in a meeting Sept. 15. The clubs administrators said they are excited to move forward with in-person meetings and reflected on the importance of clubs and the lessons they learned while being strictly virtual.

BYU clubs has commonly been a place where students can build relationships with people who have similar interests, come together to fix an issue, or create a space of inclusion and safety. With COVID-19 regulations restricting and limiting in-person activities, student clubs innovated and stretched their creativity through virtual club meetings and events.

“Right now because of the restrictions and because of how isolated people might feel because of the pandemic and social distancing, clubs are more important than ever,” said Morgan Hartman, the BYUSA vice president of clubs.

Hartman described how the clubs area has been working tirelessly to continue building communities through clubs. Hartman herself got into clubs by joining the Boggle club and found that she loved having a small community of students to connect with. Since then, she has been passionate about helping every student find or create the club they are interested in so each student can have a place they feel they belong.

Hartman became Clubs VP in April 2020, only a few weeks into the COVID-19 shutdown.

“At that point, none of us had any idea what this summer and school year would look like,” Hartman said. A normal summer of planning activities, employee retreats and team building was replaced with regulations, restrictions, virtual training, setbacks and uncertainty.

“I think it’s really important for people to have a space to meet together,” Hartman said. “And Zoom is great but it’s not always the same.” Hartman described how she and her team are doing their best to deliver what students need: a place to meet, connect and build relationships after such long isolation.

“It’s been tricky, but my team is amazing and has worked really hard to still make these communities possible for students on campus this semester,” Hartman said.

Adapting to unique circumstances

Clubs administrators had to think outside the box to create new ways to bring students together before gaining approval for in-person activities.

Clubs is holding their annual Club Rush event on Sept. 8. Instead of booths lining Brigham Square, club members handing out candy and flyers, and students interacting and making connections, this year’s Club Rush will be purely digital.

Students congregate in Brigham Square talking to club members at different booths at BYUSA’s Clubs Rush event in September 2019. (Morgan Hartman)

Each club will prerecord an introduction video describing what their club does, their club story and what they do for the university. These videos will be posted to the club’s webpage, and prizes are being offered to those who visit the webpage.

Matt Gunson, the team lead for the Clubs Rush event, said switching everything online has enabled clubs to find opportunities they never expected. Online events and new ways of interaction encouraged people who normally wouldn’t have participated in person to join the events virtually.

“As BYUSA clubs, it’s important for us to feel like students have someone they can reach out to and connect with so even in these hard times they can understand they are not alone,” Gunson said.  

According to Gunson, virtual events are bringing more new people together, but advertising and getting participation are still huge challenges.

“When it’s in-person, the event advertises itself. People walk by and see it happening, but getting someone on a website is a lot more difficult,” Gunson said. Social distancing and the lack of in-person interaction available is causing participation to drop and clubs to lose steam and motivation.

The BYU Hip Hop Club is one of the many clubs dealing with this issue.

Hip Hop Club co-president Taylor Lifferth said, “It’s hard to create a culture of improvement and togetherness that Hip Hop brings while meeting over the phone or computer.” She also said the inability to meet in-person has caused their attendance and activity to drop severely.

Despite the setbacks they’ve faced this year, the Hip Hop Club is finding new connections with people in the dance world.

“The professional Hip Hop scene out in LA and top-notch choreographers are dealing with the same thing. They’re holding Instagram lives, recording classes online, doing Zoom. And this opens up opportunities for the club to bring in more choreographers outside of Utah that we never had the chance to bring in before,” Lifferth said.

The BYU Hip Hop club is hoping to start meeting in-person once a month, socially distanced, to continue building their community. But until then they are reaching out through Instagram, Zoom and Facebook to keep their club alive.

Through all the uncertainty and regulations, student clubs and club administrators expressed their optimism as they keep building relationships, making connections and enjoying soon to be in-person events while following guidelines to keep students safe.

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