By Isaiah Reese
Elm Staff Writer
In March of 2020, classes at Washington College moved to Zoom, along with campus clubs and their traditional weekly meetings. Over a year later, the lack of face-to-face interaction has negatively affected student comradery at WC.
The decision to move clubs to a virtual platform was made to keep students safe while still allowing them to continue to have the college experience. Aside from attending classes, student-led clubs are an important component of the overall college experience — helping students develop skills such as leadership, communication, commitment, and the ability to work well with others.
Some of the skills that students gain from being a part of a student organization can mot be learned from just simply attending Zoom classes.
Some clubs and organizations need their members to share a physical space — such as club sports. However, this goes against social distancing guidelines. One of these clubs is the WC Field Hockey Club.
“The field hockey club has been on a kind of hiatus since last spring. We were working on trying to build the club last year before the COVID-19 pandemic hit but we’ve kind of given up for this year just because it’s really hard to get new members interested in playing a new sport when they can’t actually play it or learn how to play,” junior Julia Clifton said.
Colleges thrive off of students socializing with one another. This comradery cultivates a safer and more productive learning environment for students. WC has a variety of extracurricular groups on campus, from student-led organizations, sororities and fraternities, club sports and athletics, and even academic department groups.
However, some club members find that student engagement has decreased since the shift to virtual learning.
“I think being virtual has affected a lot of things,” junior President of the WC Psychology Club Shanice Fraser said. “Being remote decreases engagement. This is understandable because it is hard to be a student and actively engage with your extracurricular activities remotely.”
Traditionally, extracurricular activities are done in person. As a former high school football player, I would meet with my team to practice every day after school — either to weight lift, look at film, or run plays. Doing these things remotely would be unproductive.
On the other hand, some groups are not having the same engagement issues we see in others. One of these student organizations in particular is Radio Free George.
“I would say that interactions haven’t been hugely affected since we have gone virtual,” senior station manager of Radio Free George Jacklyn Russo said. “Members are still active in the GroupMe and if someone is passionate about what they are doing they still make sure to put in their best efforts. Members are always willing to reach out for tech help or offer help if needed. Students are pretty active.”
While this passion and engagement may still be felt in some clubs, the organizations that I am a part of are struggling to maintain the same commitment from members. In the past, Black Student Union has been known to have major student turnouts at meetings after getting campus recognition for the group’s annual fall and spring parties and other educational events. Now, even BSU is struggling to keep students engaged amidst the global pandemic.
“You can’t get the same spontaneous spirit on Zoom,” senior Destiny Harris, president of WC BSU, said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has harmed many aspects of our lives, including our need for social interaction. Hopefully, WC will be able to reincorporate in-person clubs into its campus culture when we return to in-person classes in the near future.