Connecting while separate

How clubs deal with meeting digitally due to COVID

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Photo by and used with permission of Dana Fleming

GSA/Spectrum meetings are held over zoom as clubs shift to remote meeting.

Kara Yoon, Staff Writer

As school continues remotely, clubs are finding alternatives to carrying out typical activities since many of their usual outlets are closed off due to the pandemic.  

For most clubs, Zoom is the solution. However, like anything else, it is not perfect and there are many challenges that come with modified meeting. 

“A lot of times we used to do things where people interact with each other in a way that you really can’t over zoom,”  Margaret Koy, Spectrum sponsor, said. “Sometimes we would split up and go to different parts of the room and people would draw things together but we can’t do that now so it’s pretty different.”

Clubs that haven’t started meeting yet also are approaching their activities in a new light now that they are switching online. For clubs centered around volunteering, this is especially difficult. 

“The meetings are definitely going to be changing because we’re going to be doing it on zoom,” Sohan Vuppala, a sophomore Interact officer, said.  “It’s mostly going to be virtual meetings the first semester.  We’re going to try and find other things we could do [instead of volunteering], but we can’t really volunteer at places anymore because of COVID-19, so we’re still in the process of figuring it out.”

While the methods of how groups hold meetings are being changed, clubs that required more hands-on interaction before are attempting to pursue more contact-free ways to go about activities and projects now that they can not see each other in person.

“Previously we demonstrated our ideas and projects in person and actually showed people what was going on, but now we have to talk about things more conceptually, and meetings are a lot shorter,” Ayan Porwal, sophomore Robotics Club member, said.  “Also because we don’t get to meet whatever we build, if we end up building anything, this year is inevitably going to be lower quality than what we’ve had in previous years.”

Not only do remote club meetings affect how activities are carried out, but they also deter the connection between club members due to how different talking is on video calls.

“Everybody’s getting used to how conversation flows on zoom,” Koy said. “You have to get used to the fact that you’re not right next to each other so cues are missed and you get people talking over each other all the time and things like that and I think for people in the LGBTQ community there is a sense of isolation that comes from being  not quite mainstream that gets even more pronounced with that.”

Due to the different ways zoom works and how people are getting acclimated to the app, another challenge club members face is getting to know people, according to Porwal.  Apart from timing issues, the shift in the environment makes connecting even harder.

“The atmosphere is more formal because we have to unmute to talk and can’t just throw out ideas like we used to,” Porwal said.  “Additionally, everyone’s a little less attentive because we’re not there in person and we’re not looking at each other, so things have definitely been affected adversely, even though we’re still able to get a lot of our robotics work done it’s just definitely a lot slower.”

Reaching out to find new club members has also been changed and deterred by remote interaction. Meeting dates and club information are being passed on by word of mouth rather than through physical reminders like flyers that they would typically put on campus.

“There are reminds (text notifications that alert students of club information) for some clubs, but the leaders know the kids in Spectrum so we just kind of did the old fashioned way of I’ll text these people, you text these people, and then they text people that they know,” Koy said.  “That was sort of all we had to go on because we don’t have announcements, and we can’t put posters up where people can see them, which is what we normally do.”

Although clubs may be different than years before, Vuppala says “it’s always good to get new information on any sort of activity during COVID-19 because there’s not a lot to do,” and encourages people to try and find out about meetings anyways.

“One of the easiest things to feel right now for all of us is a lack of connection.  We’re all sort of stuck in our little bubbles [while] we’re at home learning by ourselves and you know, nobody’s going out and hanging out with each other exactly as they used to do, “Koy said.  “It’s just more important than ever to have a place where people can go and feel there are other people who support them.”