Student clubs that are returning to Castleton University this semester have either been converted to an online format, in the form of video conferencing over Zoom, or have had to otherwise alter their organizations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Castleton clubs usually must submit a constitution and roster, to register and be approved by the Student Government Association. Now, clubs also will have to transition to a virtual format or will be making other practical changes for health and safety.
“I hope that nobody is discouraged, and that people are still willing to try. We want to give people really great memories, get them participating,” said James Wolfe, graduate assistant of Student Life. “The semester has just started, we’re in the beginning stages. Eventually we’ll fall into a rhythm.”
This fall, clubs are reaching out through email to get the message out and encourage students to participate. Organizations like the Student Education Association are looking to motivate and provide resources to those who are pursuing work in the education field.
Kontessa Siliski, the club president, said that they have held one official meeting so far through Zoom. Siliski added that there was a lot of interest from students who were looking to join but were unable to make the meeting.
“To make up for this, we would send them our minutes from the meeting. That way these students can still be a part of the club,” she said.
In a time where the regular stress of school might become exacerbated due to anxiety or isolation because of the pandemic, clubs have the ability to connect students through shared interests.
“Some benefits provided by clubs for the community include a sense of normalcy and happiness during a time of crisis. Clubs allow students the opportunity to branch out and try new things or be a part of something they love to do,” Siliski said. “Clubs give students a break from classes and maybe in the sense of COVID, a break from the pandemic for a little bit.”
The Castleton chapter of the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers club is also planning meetings and projects for this year.
“All of our meetings are now virtual on Zoom,” said club President Adam Mitchell. “Of course, we would love to have meetings outside, socially distanced… but there wouldn’t be a way to communicate with our members that decided to stay home this semester. This definitely has led to a decrease in membership. I mean, no one wants to have another zoom on their schedule, it’s simply overwhelming, and I understand that.”
The club is continuing to work to organize events and efforts that are beneficial for the environment and that include their off-campus members, while keeping safety measures in mind.
“September is public lands month for the BHA, so we are going to organize some trash pick-ups for the people on campus, hopefully soon, as well as encourage our members at home to get out and try to clean our public lands. Of course, this would be under social distancing protocol and masks will be required,” explained Mitchell.
Students say clubs and organizations can serve to involve and engage them with their environment and community better, as well as provide them with support.
“Social distancing has put up barriers, but the need and want for a safe place for LGBTQ+ folks to interact with each other comfortably is always present,” said Observed Viviane D’Amico, President of Spectrum Pride. “I think that has helped the club stay alive. We have dedicated members who care about each other and the environment we are able to create.”
Students who are interested in reinstating or forming a club should reach out to the Student Government Association.
“Get involved, get a hold of the vice president. We have the funds to use for clubs. Take advantage of it while following COVID guidelines,” said Student Government Association President Patrick Lucey. “If you have a question for me, feel free to send me an email and I’ll be more than happy to answer it.”
Reporter Tonè Sawyer contributed to this report.