Student orgs prepare for fall with video tours, book clubs and more

Black Loud and Queer, a new club at Pitt, has decided to meet only online for this semester.

Courtesy of Black Loud and Queer

Black Loud and Queer, a new club at Pitt, has decided to meet only online for this semester.

By Ashton Crawley, Assistant News Editor

A big part of campus life involves joining clubs, but with the fall semester quickly approaching, many things are still being decided. Some campus organizations are getting creative with things like video tours, book clubs and more.

Guidelines for student organizations have not yet been finalized, but many student organizations, such as the African Student Organization, have come up with creative events and programs to engage the community.

Nana Gyabaah-Kessie, ASO president, said the organization has been preparing fall events throughout the summer.

“ASO has been having biweekly summer meetings to get people on the same page for what the fall semester will be looking like,” Gyabaah-Kessie, a rising senior molecular biology major, said. “For fall, we will have everything virtual.”

ASO plans to partner with other Black student-led organizations to do a spinoff of the TV show “MTV Cribs,” where they do a video tour of their favorite places around campus.

“Hopefully that will keep incoming freshmen engaged and keep them aware of what’s around them on campus,” Gyabaah-Kessie said.

Gyabaah-Kessie said she thinks that meeting online may actually be beneficial to the club in some ways.

“It breaks a lot of the barriers of people not being able to attend because they might be coming from class really late and they don’t want to stay out later on campus or maybe they’re just feeling tired,” Gyabaah-Kessie said.

All of ASO’s general body meetings, as well as larger events like the African Gala and Welcome Back Concert, will most likely be held over Zoom and will utilize different features of the application, like breakout rooms.

“It is gonna be looking a little different,” Gyabaah-Kessie said. “We plan on circulating some sort of survey after every GBM to our attendees to see how this past Zoom session went, if we could do anything to improve and just kind of get an idea of how our audience is feeling.”

Gyabaah-Kessie added that recruiting new members will be more difficult this year, but the group is coming up with new strategies.

“We have been trying to work with members in our own organization and other organizations to really see how we can engage this incoming class of freshmen, and especially freshmen of color,” Gyabaah-Kessie said.

Kathryn Fleisher, a Student Government Board member and founder of Not My Generation, said students should pay attention to the guidance that will be issued by Pitt’s division of Student Affairs.

“The biggest thing is to be moving opportunities and events online so that people can engage safely, and also because not everyone is able to come back to campus this semester,” Fleisher said. “For people who are still hosting things in person, a lot of the specifics are still being decided, which can be a little difficult.”

Fleisher said there will most likely be rules about food at in-person events, which should be held outside. Events such as the annual fall activities fair, where many clubs recruit new members, will be held online this year.

“As a president of a student organization on campus, I can tell you that we’re really going to try to utilize personal networks and build our social media presence,” Fleisher said.

Fleisher said there are ways to recruit new members without actually meeting them in person, such as putting up a QR Code in a public area with a link to the club’s website.

Cynthia Truong, the president of the Asian Student Alliance, said her organization will host multiple events online every week in the beginning of the fall semester.

“For the most part, we have a lot of things mapped out. Everything we have so far is virtual and we have no in-person events planned,” Truong, a junior chemistry major, said.

Truong said new students should not let the awkwardness of virtual meetings deter them from getting involved in clubs.

“I would get informed about the virtual alternatives. While it’s difficult to have that first meeting, it’s either that or nothing, right?” Truong said. “We should pay attention to what Pitt has going on, like the virtual activities fair, while it’s going to be nothing like what we traditionally have at the Pete.”

Truong said ASA is setting an example for all of its members by holding themselves to the community compact issued by the University. The compact asks all students to wear a mask in public, social distance and stay home if they feel ill.

ASA is also utilizing its existing big-little program and launching a new initiative to match members as pen pals, in order to create opportunities for socialization.

Truong said the big-little program is one of ASA’s biggest annual programs, and much of the programming in the early fall is based around it, while the pen pals program is brand new.

“This year we still plan on doing big-little, but obviously completely virtual,” Truong said. “We created random pairings and sent out weekly prompts to help move along the convos. The purpose of pen pals is to establish a one-to-one connection before moving into the school year, so first years especially can feel more comfortable in our community.”

Ma’Kayla Palmer, a rising senior studying film and media and vice president of Black Loud and Queer, said BLAQ has also decided to meet only online.

The club plans to engage the student population with events like online book clubs, Palmer said. Current members will also utilize social media to recruit people, but it’s been difficult to plan for the fall with limited guidance.

“We haven’t really gotten much information about how clubs are going to be running. We just started last spring before COVID hit and we didn’t get time to promote our club more,” Palmer said. “We’re hoping that we can figure out what type of activities we can do that will interest freshmen.”

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