Campus organizations get ready to meet students and COVID guideline this fall

Students reunite for the first time after universities and schools across the country shut down in March due to the Coronavirus.

Gabrielle Bunton

Campus organizations are preparing for running events with COVID-19, putting modifications on how people can get together.

Over the summer, Randall Bogard, assistant director of Student Activities, said time was used planning how to help organizations and other events on campus happen safely.

One event that will go virtual is DISCOVER Fest, the annual student organization fair.

“We’ve chosen to do that virtually which will be through Zoom,” Bogard said. 

Student Activities will be sending out information later this week.

Bogard has also teamed up with the Downing Student Union’s operation team to get information on capacity limits and developing guidelines for all student organizations, such as conducting meetings, programs and events. 

According to Bogard, the guidelines for campus organizations were inspired by the priority of keeping students healthy and safe. Bogard also decided what would be the most realistic and feasible way to run things.

“It was all about trying to give them that Hilltopper experience,” Bogard said. “Even though we are in this pandemic, we are trying to line our ducks in a row to focus on safety concerns. We want to make sure that they have a home away from home here on the Hill.”

With COVID taking the structure away from students’ lives, Reformed University Fellowship still managed to give their club members a community feeling via Zoom.

Ross Lockwood, campus minister of Reformed University Fellowship, said the group giving members something to do every day — like morning prayer sessions — showed consistency and a sense of normalcy.

With Zoom being the main option for communication, Lockwood made plans to regain the sense of community that was lost via Zoom. He ultimately made the decision to keep Wednesday’s ministry face-to-face.

“We are taking away the greatest asset,” Lockwood said about using Zoom. “We are taking away what makes us RUF.” 

The club will now hold watch parties that take the whole ministry of RUF and break it down into smaller groups. 

On Wednesday nights there will be two specific locations, two on campus and two off-campus, where students will come together, read a passage from the Bible, pray together and watch pre-recorded worship and teaching. 

“Even though we still can’t meet all together, it’s still a place where we can all get together,” Lockwood said. “It’s where the culture of it is. A place where everyone belongs here.”

Lockwood still hopes to do events while also respecting WKU guidelines. 

“We want to love our neighbor well and we want to love our place well,” Lockwood said. “We respect WKU, and we won’t even come close to transgressing any of the rules in this place.”

In the case of WKU’s Food Recovery, president Elaine Losekamp said when everything closed down in March, things were strange for them. The group typically works five days a week, with Monday, Wednesday and Friday being the days to pick up leftover food from Einstein Bros. Bagels.

They then work with a network of different local nonprofit organizations to donate the food.

“When everything closed down in March, we stopped recovering from Einstein’s and we had to do a lot of last-minute recoveries from the other dining services at Western,” Losekamp said.

Losekamp also said the group was able to get leftover produce from locations like Fresh Food Company because Food Recovery is able to reuse the produce.

The club, along with help from dining services, helped organize close to 1,000 pounds of produce to donate to the community. 

“We had one week where we just had a huge amount of food,” Losekamp said. 

Losekamp said she would like to start the semester recovering food, but she is apprehensive.

“What will happen if the school closes down or someone in our club got COVID?” Losekamp said. “I feel like we would have to stop operating for safety and health purposes.”

COVID put stipulations on group activities, but Losekamp doesn’t see it being much of a problem for the club. 

“We follow a lot of safety regulations already with COVID guidelines, gloves and hand washing,” Losekamp said. “This year we will be wearing masks around the food and being even more strict that we are wearing clean gloves.”

When WKU abruptly changed classes to virtual learning, the Student Accessibility Resource Center continued to serve students with disabilities. 

Matt Davis, assistant director of Student Services, said the center has worked with the campus to help discover new ways to help during the semester. 

“We are fortunate to have collaborated with many university partners to continue to provide the services needed to our students even during the abrupt upshift,” Davis said. 

During the semester there will be a reduced staff presence in the office to promote safety while others work remotely. SARC will also use more technology to help students stay connected with the center.

Davis said the work doesn’t stop and that SARC is here to serve students. 

“Do not hesitate to reach out to the SARC for any questions they may have about our services or current procedures,” Davis said. “We are here to help our students.”

The greek community offers large-scale programs, like the New Member Symposium which hosts around 600-700 students. Andrew Rash, coordinator of Greek Affairs, said large scale events will have to look dramatically different or be postponed. 

Rash worked with sororities and fraternities to let them know the stipulations that come with group gatherings and how people come together as a whole. 

“We worked with chapters on handling various things that could happen, such as what chapters are doing to handle COVID,” Rash said. “The biggest thing is communication and setting the expectations high and that everyone knows what the limitations are.” 

Regardless of all the new stipulations brought by the pandemic, Borgard said that organizations will still help students in the ultimate goal — graduation. 

“I feel like joining an organization is important to make you feel like this home away from home,” Bogard said. “Research shows that if you are connected you are more likely to persist to graduation. That is our goal — making sure that people have a positive outlet for themselves to be successful here on the Hill.”

Gabrielle Bunton can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @gabriellebunton.