With an abrupt end to on-campus life for the remainder of the spring semester comes the realization for many Zags the previously scheduled events may not be taking place as anticipated.
With an email sent to club presidents and on-campus organizations early last week, GUEST services confirmed no events are to take place on campus throughout the duration of the semester.
That means organizations, which had previously planned for months in preparation for their event, will not get to see the final result come to fruition — at least not in the way they may have originally envisioned.
Eight days after the student body learned the remainder of the semester would take place online in some capacity, on-campus organizations found out from the university that all previously scheduled events were not going to take place on campus. Doing so would contradict advice given by multiple government bodies that advises against holding gatherings of 10 or more persons in a single area.
“The GU Emergency Response Team has been hard at work for many weeks now preparing, monitoring and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rebecca Biddison, Gonzaga Experience Live (GEL) coordinator. “They have continued to release guidance to students, staff and faculty that’s informed by the WHO (World Health Organization), CDC, Gov. [Jay] Inslee and the Spokane Regional Health District.”
GEL, Gonzaga’s annual admitted student weekend, scheduled for April 18 and 19, will not be moving forward in its traditional fashion.
The GEL team sent an email to participating students and families March 17, which informed them the nearly 30-year tradition would be canceled. Instead, the organization offered a set of links aimed at getting prospective students better acquainted with GU, despite the inability to physically be on campus.
“In the absence of GEL, we will help you [prospective students] learn more about Gonzaga through virtual methods,” the email said. “We are in the process of creating virtual programming and will let you know as activities are ready.”
Included in the links are a virtual tour of campus, a community board for admitted students to chat and talk among themselves and a variety of videos designed to give viewers a glimpse into student life at GU.
To promote the team’s efforts in replicating GEL weekend, student hosts have been asked to present themselves as a line of communication for prospective students.
GEL families will receive a $50 refund for this year’s event and for those still hoping to visit campus another time, the university will be updating the availability of campus tours as the situation unfolds.
“As much as our office is adapting and taking it day-by-day, so are these high school seniors and their families, so we are all in this together to help them make the best college choice for them,” Biddison said. “We’ve had a lot of questions surrounding our confirmation deadline of May 1 and if it will be extended, and we are extending it to June 1 to give students more time to make an informed decision.”
Other large campus events scheduled for the remainder of the semester have also begun to theorize online alternatives in lieu of in-person gatherings.
One of the biggest on-campus fundraisers for the past five years, Zagathon, has already begun taking steps to move its platform online. The annual eight-hour dance marathon, held in the Hemmingson Ballroom, was set to take place March 21, but the marathon’s usual events were delayed so the event organizers could configure methods for making it entirely online.
The dance involves performances from not only GU-affiliated clubs like the dance team and Bomb Squad, but also from kids at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital.
Zagathon is offering these kids and their families the chance to submit videos of the kids dancing, showing off their skills or just having a good time. The Zagathon team plans to post those videos on its website, and social media outlets, and send them to donors through email if allowed by the families.
“We will definitely give the families the option to get involved using video sharing but we don’t want to force anything on them and want to let them make their own decision on what’s best for their child,” Zagathon Coordinator Julia Quinlan said. “We know that under these current circumstances, it’s very important for these families that they don’t endanger their kids, so we believe that allowing them to get involved through the use of videos on the online platform is a good alternative.”
This technique is not entirely new to the club, as it’s been used previously for kids who were unable to attend the event but still wanted to participate.
The club is also moving back this year’s deadline to donate, as the online portal to donate usually closes at the commencement of the dance marathon. This will help the club raise funds for the hospital, similar to what it’s done in past years, despite the absence of the live dance marathon, which usually amasses around 600 guests each year.
For some on-campus clubs, an online alternative isn’t a feasible option for the type of events they host.
Cultural clubs, for instance, like the Hawaii Pacific Islanders Club (HPIC) and La Raza Latina, had to outright cancel this year’s rendition of each of their annual events, Luau and the La Raza Latina festival, respectively.
These events are often the most profitable way clubs acquire funds to continue into the next year.
“Luau is one of the most costly things we spend our money on but it’s also the biggest fundraiser for the next year, so not having it means we’re not spending too much of our club funds, but it also means that our club’s not profiting much from it either,” said Tiana Pereira, HPIC president.
The club will be reaching out to those who have already reserved a table for the Luau asking if they would like a refund or to donate the money to the club.
Not only do these annual events act as a primary fundraising tool for the cultural clubs, they serve as a demonstration of the hard work and time club members invest in making their event an authentic look into their cultures.
These clubs have put nearly a year’s worth of time into planning their end of the year events, whether it be scheduling the venue, creating meal plans, coming up with a theme or putting together performances.
Like other end-of-year events, the Luau and La Raza Latina’s festival also serve as a platform to commemorate the seniors within their club, who have dedicated a number of years to their organizations. This is also the last of these annual events that seniors have the opportunity to participate in as students.
“This is a bummer for all the seniors or anyone who would’ve had this as their last Luau because they’re really missing out on it,” Pereira said. “We’ve been looking forward to April 4 for, literally, almost a year now, and now, it’s just sad to see that a lot of the seniors aren’t going to get that type of closure.”
The HPIC club board is looking into ways it can properly celebrate the seniors in an online format, even if the Luau won’t be taking place. The club has also discussed speaking with the university to see if there would be some way to recognize its graduating club members at commencement.
All GU traditions affected by this crisis, from GEL weekend to the HPIC Luau, which is the longest-standing cultural club event on campus going into its 51st year, plan on a return to form next year when the academic calender likely proceeds in usual fashion.