By Mallory Harris | Staff Writer
Student Activities plans to resume in-person meetings for student organizations on Feb. 7 as long as the campus COVID-19 cases stays within appropriate limits.
During the fall 2020 semester, Baylor laid out guidelines for students to follow to allow for in-person instruction, including wearing masks inside campus buildings, social distancing, washing hands and the addition of outdoor tents for on-campus studying and dining.
In keeping with these rules, the spring 2021 semester is now underway with added weekly testing requirement for all students, faculty and staff. Throughout these transitions, Student Activities has learned from the fall semester to strive for normalcy for student life on campus this spring.
The main reason for the added testing is to hopefully conduct more in-person events this spring, explained Baylor President Dr. Linda Livingstone. By having a more precise and focused log of infection within the university, the health and management team can work better to accommodate student life. Along with adding weekly testing, the university has also released a new travel policy that cancels all study abroad for spring 2021.
Director of Student Activities Matt Burchett explained the proposed plan to resume student organization meetings on Feb. 7.
“Right now, the plan is if conditions are appropriate for campus community as a whole, which means our caseload is manageable for the resources we have available, that we will open back up on Feb. 7 under the same conditions that we had,” Burchett said.
As the university yearns for a sense of normalcy, Burchett said keeping organizations vibrant and involved through communication, along with trying to upkeep Baylor’s reputation, are goals for Student Activities.
Picking up where the fall semester ended should allow for more opportunities for expanded meetings and experiences in a faster timeframe throughout this semester, given students abide by COVID-19 guidelines. Providing the opportunity for students to connect through Baylor’s traditions and events is another achievement Student Activities strives for this semester.
“All those experiences that kind of define the spring semester … we want to make sure we’re in some way, shape or form cultivating an experience for those student organizations,” Burchett said. “One of the mantras throughout the fall was how do we bring the familiar into an unfamiliar space.”
Houston senior Whitney Johnson, president of Women in Business at Baylor, explained how the group’s normal activities have changed with COVID-19. The organization typically hosts three different events per month that focus on social, professional and service themes.
Not only has the pandemic changed how the organization meets, but their membership has been affected as well. The organization stands as the largest group in the Hankamer School of Business, but gaining new members has been difficult to do virtually, Johnson said.
“Our goal for the semester is just to retain our current membership, add a few people if possible, in addition to continuing to host our hybrid but primarily virtual events,” Johnson said. “And then just get any feedback from our membership that we have about how we are currently operating and how we can serve them better.”
One way for student organizations and Student Activities to work better together is through the Student Involvement Center. Burchett said each organization can contact a student involvement specialist who helps keep track of new policies and is there to be of service to these organizations.
Johnson mentioned how their assigned student involvement specialist helps with putting their events on Connect, staying within Baylor’s policies and being a place of support.
As the guidelines for Baylor remain the same, the ability to host more in-person events largely relies on students working with the university with masks and weekly testing, Burchett said. Student Activities has many plans for students this spring and plans to interact with organizations on Feb. 7.