Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 17, 2021

University expects most spring events will remain virtual

By ARIELLA SHUA | December 8, 2020

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COURTESY OF RUDY MALCOM

SLI leaders described the procedures they have in place for limited in-person student group gatherings this spring.

Student Leadership and Involvement (SLI) hosted a webinar for registered student organizations (RSO) on Friday, Dec. 4. The event outlined procedures that the University plans to implement regarding in-person gatherings for student clubs in the spring semester.

The webinar was hosted by Dean of Student Life Smita Ruzicka; SLI Director Calvin Smith, Jr.; Executive Director of Student Engagement Laura Stott; and Associate Director for Leadership Development Carolyn Harris. Ruzicka and Senior Advisor to the Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jen Calhoun co-led the planning for in-person gatherings along with a team of seven undergraduate representatives and 16 faculty members. 

In-person events

The current plan assumes a hybrid plan for the spring. Throughout the fall semester, Hopkins has operated under its Phase One guidelines, with no in-person RSO activities permitted. Smith explained that the spring is set to resume under Phase Two guidelines, which emphasize “Resuming Medium-Risk Activities.”

All in-person events, whether indoors or outdoors, will be limited to 10 people or fewer. All event attendees must be Hopkins affiliates, though they do not have to be members of the student group. They are required to wear a face mask at all times. SLI is also designing waivers for participants to sign prior to events.

The 10-person maximum limits most student events to remain online. In an email to The News-Letter, junior Jessica Liang, co-director of the Osler Medical Symposium, noted that her organization has more than 10 members and its events have at least 50 students.

“We’re structured around large speaker events, so we always knew that wasn’t feasible,” she wrote. “We tried to be realistic in our planning for spring semester and align our thinking with Hopkins. So, we were already preparing for virtual spring events.”

Room reservations for the spring semester will open on Hopkins Groups on Tuesday, Dec. 8 at 10 a.m. All RSOs are allowed to request multiple room reservations for any type of club meetings. Space will be granted on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Smith stated that room reservations will be prioritized based on the event type, with programming that unites students taking precedence over standard club meetings.

“We wanted to prioritize the programming and events and affinity-building opportunities over general body meetings,” Smith said. “Affinity-building, peer-student community, cross-organization/departmental, as well as opportunities for emotional health and well-being.”

RSOs looking to hold general body or executive board meetings may still apply and will receive space after events and programs. If there is a lack of space, a lottery system will be used.

Most rooms, Smith said, will have fixed furniture setups that cannot be adjusted. He stressed that while 10 is the maximum number of students allowed, some rooms will accommodate only eight, six or four students, noting that these numbers are subject to reevaluation throughout the semester. 

All student groups are responsible for cleaning rooms after using them. SLI will provide centrally located cleaning materials between buildings, which students can pick up and drop off after.

Available spaces include the Mattin Center, Levering Hall and Charles Commons. The LaB will be closed. The structure currently under construction on the Freshman Quad will be available for informal student use — possibly through app reservations — but this space will not be available for RSO booking.

Ruzicka estimated that 80 to 90% of programs and services will remain virtual despite new allowances. She stated that 1,400 students will live in residence halls, in addition to students living off-campus. According to Ruzicka, having most events take place virtually will accommodate both space restrictions and students living elsewhere.

“We still want to make sure that they’re engaged and plugged in,” Ruzicka said. “Wherever it makes sense, we want to have smaller, in-person complements to those [virtual] events or have stand-alone, in-person events.”

Senior Kim Robins, co-chair of the Hopkins J Street chapter, stated that the extensive procedures made them reconsider the amount of in-person events they’ll plan.

“We were already planning on having a mix of things, in-person and online,” she said. “After the webinar, it gave me the sense that we’ll be more online than in-person.”

Event coordinator

All RSOs planning to have in-person events are required to designate at least one event coordinator among their members. The position will be noted on Hopkins Groups.

The new position signifies a member of the club who is responsible for ensuring that all actions go according to protocol. The event coordinator must be present at in-person events and is expected to lead room reservations and cleanups. RSOs are allowed to have multiple event coordinators.

According to Smith, SLI will be conducting event coordinator training during Intersession.

“We will not permit that organization to host in-person events if this person is not trained during Intersession on all policies and procedures,” Smith said. “That is something that’s new that will be required as we go forward into the spring semester to ensure that we have some level of quality control.”

Even student groups that are planning to remain virtual are encouraged to train an event coordinator, Smith said, as limited-capacity events may be the norm for some time. All students interviewed planned to designate at least one person for the position.

Third-year dual-degree student Ann Marie Nolan, secretary of the Women’s Pre-Health Leadership Society, believes that utilizing event coordinators will be helpful.

“It’s a good idea to have one person who’s the main contact so it doesn’t go through a bunch of people,” she said.

Performing arts groups

Performing arts groups will be allowed to host in-person performances in the spring. Singers can sing outdoors with six feet between performers. Dancers can dance with 12 feet between performers. All instrumental groups may perform with the exception of wind players. Masks must be worn at all times.

Smith stated that Mattin Center practice rooms will be available for use on a limited basis with permission from Homewood Arts Program (HAP). Students taking performance classes for credit from Peabody will be prioritized.

Junior Sara Malina, assistant technical director for Witness Theater, felt that the webinar was thorough but not especially relevant to her organization. This fall, Witness Theater has hosted online 24-hour shows and an ongoing writing workshop but may try to plan an in-person performance for the spring.

“Depending on the specifics as it pertains to the space and what they’re comfortable with, I think we could do some kind of pre-recorded show,” she said. “But we haven’t really discussed that yet and are waiting for more information.”

HAP will be hosting different information sessions for performing arts groups on Dec. 8 and Dec. 9. HAP Director Nicoleen Willson will share access to additional forms this week, and HAP will release additional information as the fall semester ends.

Budget

The Student Government Organization (SGA) will do one allocation for the spring semester. Requests are ongoing through Jan. 3, 2021.

Budget submissions will be evaluated during Intersession, and RSOs should expect to hear back prior to the spring semester. Because SGA’s caps are in place for the entire year, allocations will be partially determined based on whether an RSO received money for the fall semester.

Smith urged RSOs to consider how they might use their budgets to engage students virtually or in creative in-person fashions.

“That does not mean that you can’t request as much money as you need to execute your programming,” he said. “That may mean that you need some video editing. That may mean that you need a certain type of software that the University doesn’t provide.”

Smith stated that group travel will not take place this spring and that no third-party vendors are allowed during any in-person events. Food is currently not allowed (including in grab-and-go tabling style), but foodless tabling options are permitted. Food purchase may be reconsidered once the semester commences.

Planning for the future

Smith urged RSOs to be creative and to plan for the type of events that make most sense considering the public health outlook. Hopkins will open the semester more conservatively, he said, but may ease or tighten restrictions depending on city, state and federal guidelines.

Both Ruzicka and Smith emphasized that SLI and RSOs will be working together to navigate the unprecedented spring.

Liang described the webinar as useful, though it didn’t change Osler Medical Symposium’s outlook for the semester.

“It was well run, but it felt almost identical to meetings we had over the summer,” she wrote. “But, to be fair, all the recent dialogue from Hopkins administration has felt identical to the summer.”

Nolan noted that students are planning for a partially in-person semester but fear another University shutdown. Hybrid planning procedures were also outlined over the summer before the fall semester was made fully virtual.

“Everything was taken with a grain of salt in whether or not it’s going to actually happen,” she said.

Additional information will be sent to students, including more about event coordinators. Athletic and performing arts groups were told that specific guidelines for their groups are forthcoming.

According to Robins, limiting gatherings to 10 people regardless of indoor or outdoor status is not consistent with the mechanics of how COVID-19 spreads. However, they do feel that most of the measures are reasonable, though they doubt that many students will follow the steps in place.

“There’s so many rules and procedures in terms of before the event, registering the event, getting it approved, getting the room set up, getting there, having the RSVP in order, cleaning the room. It seems like a lot of steps,” she said. “My feeling is that student groups will disregard some or all of the rules because there’s just too many of them or will have very few or no in-person events because it’s not worth all the hassle.”

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