By: Michael Olszewski, Contributing Writer
Towson University’s (TU) clubs and organizations have spent the past year adjusting to a virtual environment. After finding their footing, many prepare to offer an integrated experience as the University begins to allow limited in-person gatherings.
TU has updated their policies to allow limited socially distanced meetings of up to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, per Baltimore County regulations.
Bettering Black Minds (BBM) is one of the many organizations seeking to hold in-person meetings and future on-campus events beginning this semester. BBM is a group dedicated to ending the stigmas against mental health in the black community. A typical meeting for BBM would consist of talking through your highs and lows of the day, along with group discussions regarding a wide variety of topics that may impact their members.
According to BBM President Brianna Smith, the group will potentially be hosting some in-person meetings.
“We are trying to make some meetings in person, especially outdoors when it comes to spring,” Smith said. “We are planning on hosting a picnic outside if the rules remain the same and towson still allows it come spring.”
The Knitting Club has also adapted their meeting strategy. The club meets via Zoom weekly and operates as a safe space for its members to share their work, discuss different topics and offer social interaction to anyone who may be quarantined, or isolated on or off-campus for the semester.
“We welcome more than just knitters,” President of the Knitting Club Celeste Vandegriff said. “We have been doing charity programs, the main two we’ve participated in are knitting winter accessories for homeless people at an organization called PLASE: people lacking adequate shelter and employment.”
While many student-run clubs have opted for fully virtual meetings, they have also experienced a decline in participation and membership-recruitment in losing face-to-face time.
Diverse Minds Peer Educators (DMPE), an organization dedicated to educating students about mental health in people with marginalized identities, shares this experience.
“In the past, hosting in-person events on campus is another way of attracting potential interested members, but we have lost that avenue as well due to virtual learning,” reads a statement from DPME.
Being dedicated to helping students with mental health, DPME has continued to provide support for students.
“DMPE program believes it is important for us to continue our work through ongoing education and advocacy,” the statement continues. “Ways our organization has worked during a pandemic is through delivering peer-led workshops, disseminating mental health research and encouragement through infographics on social media, and holding a Healing Lounge Series for people to journal and reflect on mental health and social justice prompts.”
President of Japanese Language and Culture Organization (JLCO) Tamara Simpson spoke on the struggles clubs have faced reaching out to new students, and cites a lack of interest in participating in Zoom meetings.
“It isn’t easy to be excited for everything being online, so it seems many students rather just not join clubs,” stated Simpson.
In a typical year, the JLCO would spend this time preparing for their annual Cherry Blossom Festival trip to D.C., which has been cancelled due to COVID-19. Nonetheless, the organization has continued to conduct virtual meetings on their regular schedule.
TU has encouraged organizations to use social media to their advantage while in-person events cannot be fully utilized for recruitment as of now, as explained on the Student Life Website.
More info can be found regarding all student organizations and how to reach out to them on the Involved @TU.