Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
August 5, 2020

Uncertainty looms following webinar for student groups

By MARVIS GUTIERREZ | July 6, 2020

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This fall, SIF will be held virtually.

The Office of Student Leadership and Involvement (SLI) hosted a webinar for student organizations on Friday, June 26 exploring what the co-curricular experience will look like this fall. 

Dean of Student Life Smita Ruzicka, Executive Director of Student Engagement Laura Stott, SLI Director Calvin Smith, Jr., Interim Director of Homewood Arts Programs Nicoleen Willson and Assistant Director of Intramurals & Sport Clubs Gabriel Castellano spoke at the webinar. 

Phased Resumption of Activities

According to the panelists, the University set three phases to guide the resumption of student groups’ activities.

Phase One involves reopening low-risk activities, while student group meetings, large programs and any trainings will remain online. Phase Two-A will open spaces for student engagement with attendance caps. Phase Two-B will allow recreation and wellness classes, certain intramurals, community service and tabling to resume. Phase Three will reopen performing arts showcases. 

In an email to The News-Letter, Vicky Chen, an executive board member for Theta Tau, expressed her concerns about limited opportunities to build relationships with potential new members during the early phases. 

“I’m mostly concerned about how freshmen and new members can really start to build relationships virtually,” she wrote. “No matter what, virtual is not going to be the same as in-person.” 

Smith stated that under Phase Three, almost every facet of student engagement will be reopened.

“We won’t be able to have third-party or non-JHU affiliates on campus for the foreseeable future,” Smith said. “Once we get into Phase Three, we can relax that policy.”

Even as student groups resume their activities, Ruzicka noted that rooms previously open to club use may be unavailable as the University plans to increase its number of classrooms as each classroom will see drastic reductions to its maximum capacity. 

“Space will be limited. It will be taken up by the academic enterprise, with socially distant, policy-aligned classrooms,” Ruzicka said. “Levering and Charles Commons are being envisioned to use for classrooms.”

Rooms including Mattin 161-162 and the Arellano Theater will be used for academic instruction. Several other locations, including the Glass Pavilion, are being considered as well.

Smith noted that changes will have to be made to existing room reservations.

Instead of indoor spaces, the University is looking to use outdoor spaces for club engagement. The outdoor spaces will have accessible heating and cooling and internet connections, according to the panelists. Tents will be in use to protect students from rain and snow. Certain student activities, such as the fall Orientation Show, have already been moved to virtual formats. 

Ruzicka did not clarify whether the University would provide masks for students, a policy for which the Student Advisory Committee advocated.

“A decision has not been made,” Ruzicka said. “But the University is looking into providing some quantity and some kind of PPE [personal protective equipment] to different constituents of the community, which includes students.”

In an email to The News-Letter, rising senior Julia Zeng worried about safety on campus if the University does not provide masks to students. 

“Hopkins should be helping students get access to masks because if they can’t get masks, then I don’t know how they’re expecting students will have access,” Zeng wrote.

Travel and Budget

According to Ruzicka, travel for student groups such as sports organizations is currently on hold.

Sports organizations will face space shortages as well due to ongoing construction at the Recreation Center. Opportunities for teams to practice will not be available until the University reaches Phase Two. 

Based on demand for space, performance arts groups may no longer be able to have multiple practices per week. The focus will be on ensuring as many groups as possible have a rehearsal slot.

Ruzicka stated that some student organizations will also face budget cuts. This is an anticipated development, as announced by Student Government Association Executive Treasurer Addy Perlman in May.

Rising junior Neha Majety, president of a new student organization bARTimore, voiced concerns with the anticipated budget cuts in an email to The News-Letter.

“They didn’t really tell us anything about that aside from the fact that travel budgets will not be accommodated,” she wrote. “After finally getting a chance to submit a budget request and then learning about cuts, but not getting actual information about how that would apply to us, we are just very frustrated.”

Hopkins Groups and SIF

SLI announced the use of a new system to manage student organizations. Features include a more robust budgeting tool, event tickets and a more streamlined process of inputting club information.

The new platform will be launched on Aug. 1. Fall re-registration will start on launch and last until Sept. 30.

According to Smith, SIF will be held online Sept. 4 via Hopkins Groups. Live conversation will still be possible through scheduled meeting times, and students will be trained throughout August on using the platform.

“When we do the virtual involvement fair, there will be booths, similar to what you had when you did tabling,” Smith said. “The more information that you put in your booth, the larger your booth will appear to students looking for opportunities to engage.”

Rising junior Ashley Wang remained uncertain regarding the new system of a virtual SIF.

“I’m kind of concerned about the ‘more you promote = more exposure’ system. I don’t know how any of this can be quantified, and if it should be,” Wang wrote. “While well-intentioned, it could devolve into something hierarchical.”

Majety noted that any policies announced at the webinar could change depending on University and city-wide policy.

“It’s very frustrating attending meetings and reading emails from the University saying they will give us information on these topics but then just being told we will know soon or they are still unsure,“ Majety wrote. “It just feels like everything is being postponed and makes it really hard to plan for anything.”

Zeng echoed Majety in expressing her frustration that student leaders left the webinar without much clarification. 

“I know SLI said for us to be creative,” Zeng wrote, “I wish they had provided a little more guidance, support, and a clearer idea of what resources are available to student leaders.”

SLI will host a second webinar for student organizations on Friday, July 31.

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