Manhattan College Club Leaders Remain Optimistic Despite COVID-19

by Jilleen Barrett, Asst. A&E Editor

As the fall semester is beginning to unfold, both remote and in-person learners at Manhattan College wonder what the upcoming year will look like. Due to the effects of COVID-19, almost every aspect of the college will be operating differently, including student organizations and clubs.

Hartson hopes that this semester will be as suc- cessful for the pep band as past semesters have been. MEGHAN HARTSON / COURTESY

Many clubs will be impacted by the new rules set in place this semester. Seen as both social and academic activities, clubs contribute largely to the sense of community that is beloved on this campus. Without regular meetings and each group’s traditional events, club members look to their leaders to create a new normal.

One of these club leaders is Jenn Bueti, a rising senior and the president of the Manhattan College Singers. The performing arts group used to practice in a small room in Thomas Hall and host many in-person events, but their 45 to 50 members need a larger space to practice and perform while maintaining social distancing guidelines.

“New things I would like to bring to the group are more online sessions with recorded parts of the songs we will work on,” Bueti said. “So students who cannot make it to every rehearsal still have a sense of the music and do not fall behind.”

Bueti is expecting to plan online performances for Open House and Lessons & Carols, two fall semester shows.

Junior Meghan Hartson, president of the Pep Band, is undergoing some of the same planning as she prepares for the upcoming basketball season. Hartson believes there will have to be some of the same adjustments in rehearsal space and performances.

“Our plan is to practice in Smith once a week,” Hartson said. “We used to practice in Thomas 517 so we need a bigger space, and social distancing will be enforced. We also plan on holding virtual meetings every so often to make sure everyone is okay and adjusting to remote learning. Another thing we talked about is possibly recording some pieces of us playing music for them to play on the screens in Draddy during games if fans aren’t allowed.”

As for the rest of the performing arts groups, Hartson explained that there will be a

small, virtual club fair specifically for students interested in any related clubs. Bueti adds that anyone interested in Singers should contact club advisor Andy Bauer.

According to John Bennett, the director of the Office of Student Engagement, there will be several different types of club fairs occurring this semester to cater to different interests.

“Right now we’re thinking of doing both a virtual club fair, by holding a Google Meet with breakout rooms, but also a club fair in person, spread out over the course of a few days or a week,” Bennett said. “That way, only related groups will be set up each day.. We’re also planning to hold it on the Jasper Backyard, so it’s not in the walkways of the quad.”

Although most undergraduate students are having a hard time dealing with how different everything is, freshmen have to adjust to college life in general as well as the unfamiliar rules provoked by the pandemic. Tyla Boone, a freshman political science major, is feeling the stress of having to adapt during these strange times.

“I am slightly nervous about coming to campus but I don’t know whether they are freshman nerves or COVID nerves,” she said. “I also feel that if everyone does their part we should be fine during this time. Compared to other schools, Manhattan has done a fantastic job about what they plan to do once we get to campus which has been very reassuring.”

The 2019 club fair brought crowds of stu- dents to the quadrangle, but the 2020 club fair will look very different. BRIAN ASARE / THE QUADRANGLE

Boone, who plans to attend the virtual club fair, hopes to join Model United Nations and possibly the Black Student Union. Though a group of students has gathered for meetings of the Black Student Union for the past three years, this academic year is the first that it will be recognized as an official club. Junior Ashley Baptiste, the vice president of the club, explains that its meetings will be virtual so as to not exclude remote learners.

“We are living in an uncertain and unprecedented time, but the one thing that is certain is that this semester will be like no other,” she said. “BSU’s main goal is to provide a comfortable and inclusive environment for all students in the Manhattan College community especially for those of color. Whether we operate virtually or on campus, we will fulfill that goal.”

Some clubs weren’t able to continue operating the way

they have in the past, such as the Love Your Melon crew. The group primarily had as many as 20 in-person events per year and worked with children in hospitals, but the pandemic has kept them from being able to physically be with the patients.

Senior Brona Nielsen, the president of the Love Your Melon club, says the group will still be doing substantial work.

“The non-profit Pinky Swear is ‘taking over’ the program, so we’re now the Manhattan College Pinky Swear PACK Program,” she said. “The PACK programs are all nationwide at colleges and universities so the club headquarters make us a constitution and plan out what we are doing for the semester.”

Though the club is different from what she expected for this semester, Nielsen feels that they will continue to have an impact on children in need.

“My goals for this semester are to try and keep everyone positive,” Nielsen said. “Everything is very tentative right now with our club so we might not be doing as much as we had in the past, like meeting with kids and getting to see the impact that we have on their lives.”

Many clubs plan to use social media and virtual sessions to recruit members. The Black Student Union, for example, will be taking advantage of the virtual format to increase membership. Their first meeting will be on Sept. 16 over Zoom.

“We will be discussing anything and everything about BSU and answering questions,” Baptiste said. “For now we will be using one of our biggest platforms, social media, to recruit new members as well as promoting upcoming events.”

Overall, club leaders are optimistic about the upcoming semester despite current events.

“In my opinion, I think this semester is going to be very weird but I’m still excited for it,” Nielsen said. “I hope that ever yone on campus stays safe and that we can have as close to a normal semester as we can get.”

Baptiste is also excited for this semester and is confident that clubs will be able to overcome any challenges the pandemic may bring.

“These past couple months I’ve observed that as BSU, fellow Jaspers, and citizens of the world, we can persevere through any obstacle, and personally, I am excited to see what these accomplishments this semester brings.”