The virtual semester is a double-edged sword: on the one hand, you no longer need to leave the comfort of your own home to go to class, socialize, or participate in student clubs, organizations, or events. On the other hand… Technology. Wi-Fi. Time differences. Cabin fever. Screen headaches. Etc. Not to mention the need to reformat all in-person plans to fit in a Zoom call. At this point in the semester, we’ve all experienced how our classes are being affected. But how are student clubs and organizations adjusting to this virtual reality?
I contacted Student Body President Bailey Haines, class of 2022, for comment on how our Undergraduate Student Government (USG) is affected. Haines, a Secondary Education and Mathematics double major, said that the only real change has been the switch to virtual meetings. “We always work to elevate student voices and serve as a liaison between undergraduates and administration, that won’t change! …[We] are doing our best to be even more supportive [of student organizations] in this virtual space so that students can still engage and find community!
“As President, I write and disseminate agendas and minutes, facilitate our Senate and Executive Board meetings, and help plan various events and ways to garner student engagement,” said Haines. “I also attend University Council, Diversity Council, Alumni Council, and Board of Trustees meetings to present a student perspective in conversations.”
Haines outlined the roles of various members of USG as follows. “The Senate is comprised of the Executive Board which includes our essential committee chairs, Class Senators who share student experiences, and Class Coordinators who work to amplify spirit within their respective classes,” she explained. “Outside of the Senate but still under the umbrella of USG, we have our committees that are open to any and all undergraduate students.”
One such committee is the Campus Activities Board (CAB). Christian López Carroça, an Art Therapy Major, is Creative Leisure Chair of CAB.
“CAB functions through weekly meetings. We run off a budget that is not connected to USG’s club budget as we are not a club but a fellow organization,” explained López Carroça. “This semester we are using funding that is left over from prior semesters.” Pre-COVID, CAB had “7 members fully on the board, but we are now down to four. We dropped the President and Vice President positions and now work as a council in most situations… We’re very open to having new members even if you don’t feel you can commit too much.” In López Carroça’s view, “CAB is probably the organization at Lesley that has the ability to make the biggest difference overall.
“We have open meetings every week on Tuesday at 8:00 am on Zoom. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in joining. In addition, we have events over zoom as well.” López Carroça said they can even send prizes to participants through the mail!
According to Bailey Haines, there’s still space in USG as well.“If you are interested in joining the Undergraduate Student Government, it’s not too late! In the coming weeks, we’ll be holding our Fall elections for first year and transfer students as well as for vacant positions. Virtual intent packets will be made available on September 28th! Feel free to follow us @lesleyusg to keep up to date or email us at email@example.com with any questions!”
In order to see how an athletic club would run virtually, I decided to attend a Dance Team strength and conditioning class led by Kayla Caulfield, 2022. Caulfield, an Interactive Design major, is currently a workshop leader for the Dance Team, and has choreographed for them in the past. I didn’t know what to expect, but the evening class ran smoothly over Zoom. The only difficulties were creating a good space in my home to participate and, occasionally, being unable to see the leader’s body and feet at the same time.
“As with all other student organizations, we’re navigating a new normal” said Caulfield. “We will still be offering workshops and weekly classes so students can participate in any capacity they’d like. There will be a new schedule released monthly, with any Lesley student- undergraduate or graduate, previous dance experience or not- more than welcome to join us!”
When asked about the Dance Team’s goals for this year, Caulfield responded that they are focusing on restorative justice after an anonymous post on the Instagram page @BIPOCatLesley shared some negative experiences with the club, “noting feeling excluded and uncomfortable due to the lack of diversity within our team members and the styles of dances we perform” explained Caulfield.
“Our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion chairs of the executive board were quick to respond to those statements with a new Diversity statement (which can be viewed via our LinkTree in our Instagram bio, @lesleydanceteam).” Caulfield added that the dance team held a “Restorative Justice Circle with all e-board members and choreographers from the Spring 2020 semester to brainstorm changes that need to occur within our team at every level of membership… We have been busy brainstorming new changes that we hope to implement this semester, but there will be bigger changes once we return to campus in-person and back in the dance studios. But in the short-term, for this semester our goal is to provide many opportunities for all students to become involved in the dance team, starting with implementing more accessible class and workshop times.
“In past semesters,” explained Caulfield, “it was imperative students joined the team at the very beginning of the semester to participate in out end-of-semester showcases- the team hopes to be more flexible about that in future in-person semesters. But for now, we will allow anyone to join any one-time workshop classes or the class series, regardless of past dance team membership. We welcome anyone who would like to receive our e-mails about upcoming classes and workshops to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain a copy of our information meeting handout and to place their name on the e-mail list. We [also] encourage any student who would like to give us feedback on any aspect of the dance team to please e-mail us [here]. Our previous showcase performances can be watched on YouTube, on our channel LUDanceteam!”
All three student organization leaders I spoke with had optimistic things to say about this strange new semester. “There’s no getting around the fact that this virtual semester is tough” conceded Student Body President Bailey Haines. “I’m working to strike a balance between acknowledging the difficulties (and injustices) that are being highlighted in the world while also uplifting those around me. I think the biggest theme of this semester will be flexibility. At the end of the day, we’re all human and have to adapt to plans changing, but it’s also okay to struggle with those changes.”