After nearly a year of online programs and in-person events limited to less than 1o people, Armstrong Student Center is hopeful that the spring semester will finish out closer to normal.
Currently, student organizations can hold meetings in Armstrong as long as they remain under 10 people, even if the space could safely accommodate more. No live productions are able to be performed, either.
Student events that are usually larger scale, like many hosted by Miami Activities and Programming (MAP), have been transformed into pick-up spots for students to collect crafts and other activities to complete at home. One example is the annual event “I Love You Beary Much,” held last week, where students picked up bears and stuffing to make later.
In mid-March, the university will reevaluate the COVID situation on campus and determine if larger events inside Armstrong will be possible.
“We’ll look at things like the Ohio Department of Health guidelines, has there been any movement in the city of Oxford’s lifting of the 10 person gathering limit … but we just didn’t want to make a decision back in January projecting out the next three months when COVID is really unpredictable,” said Katie Wilson, Armstrong Student Center director.
Some events held later in the semester could include streamed performances of student groups in Wilks Theater or modified versions of annual events like MAP’s Spring Fest held outside, said Kimberly Vance, director of the Cliff Alexander Office of Student Activities and Fraternity and Sorority Life.
“That’s the kind of stuff we’re trying to think about,” Vance said. “How can we do this, and move this forward, and try to accommodate some of what [students] want, which is to be able to experience things together and be together.”
Vance hopes that as the weather warms, more events will be held outside where it’s easier to social distance. Some outdoor events were held last fall, like movie nights and yoga classes.
Vance said that as state COVID-19 regulations start to adjust, such as the cancelation of the statewide curfew, the university will reevaluate its regulations.
“That is a signal to us … that community spread and how community spread happens – that there are ways to manage it,” she said. “And so we just need to figure out what our capacity is.”
Vance said in addition to state and local regulations, other factors will be considered, such as the spaces available, required sanitation needed in between each use and whether enough staff is available to sanitize.
She said that, while student groups have adapted well to COVID regulations when it comes to holding meetings and events, she knows most students want to get back to more in-person experiences.
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“I don’t think it’s a secret to anybody,” Vance said. “There is a detriment to this thing that we’ve had to do where we’re not with people like we normally would be. Virtual is great, but it’s just not all of it, and we know that.”
Senior Morgan Moritz, president of MAP, is hopeful that her organization will be able to return to hosting more in-person events by the end of the semester. MAP hosted some outside events in the fall, such as a succulent pass out, which was popular among students.
“Students just loved coming and being outside and having the community with other students,” Moritz said.
Moritz also said that between online events and outside/in-person events, the latter attracted more students. Every in-person event MAP has held so far this semester has been sold out.
“Students are just looking for something to do and looking for ways to have that small connection,” Moritz said, “so I think [in-person events] would be very popular and students would just love it.”