This past year has demanded higher levels of adaption from everyone here at Gonzaga, including the way clubs and activities are allowed to operate in a time of a global pandemic.

Last semester’s club fair saw the implementation of online “booths” where students could log in to Zoom meetings and chat with club officers and members. This semester utilized a similar style to last semester’s, due to the uncertainty posed by high infection rates of COVID-19.

According to GSBA Director of Clubs and Organizations Katelyn Orcino, the importance of clubs has mattered more now than ever.

“Clubs being the No. 1 beginners and leaders in community building, they have taken more of the role of connecting students with one another through the interest each club focuses on,” Orcino said in an email. “In a time when students feel alone and isolated having to be distant, club events are always a great time in which students can spend time with each other (online or social distanced) to get part of the college experience.”

According to The New York Times, a survey of more than 1,900 American colleges and universities has revealed that COVID-19 has caused more than 397,000 positive cases and 90 deaths since the start of the academic year.

By contrast, GU has had 125 positive cases among those students who are living on campus. GU also has a 1.33% positivity rate from out of 15,141 tests conducted since Aug. 22, a number representing almost four times the number of its undergraduate students.

Due in part to these numbers, some clubs have been able to achieve a sense of normalcy during this pandemic. The GU Dance Team, for instance, is still able to perform most of its routines.

“We are actually filming our routines,” said Maya Gutierrez, a Dance Team captain. “We’re hoping to get into the Kennel to film them and have them professionally filmed. We’re just going to be posting them to social media.”

In a time where learning both in person and online is harder than ever, GU’s clubs offer students a time and place to connect.

“All our clubs are doing their best to support their peers especially during [COVID-19] and have been doing their best to their abilities to continue what they have previously done as a club,” Orcino said.

Many clubs have transitioned to an online format due to restrictions on meeting capacities.

“Student involvement has mainly been online this year doing meetings over Zoom, online watch parties and games such as Kahoot,” Orcino said. “Some clubs also continue doing some events in person within the safety measures to add the in-person connection to their club. The pandemic has affected student involvement, but we are seeing more and more clubs finding new ways to get their members engaged as last semester went on. We are anticipating greater involvement this semester since we have more solidified guidelines and clubs have adapted.”

For clubs already transitioning to a mostly online format like the GU Smash Bros. Club, the new restrictions have actually improved the accessibility of the club for its members.

“There’s online tournaments and lobbies we’re able to use,” said Abigail Mozzone, the president of the GU Smash Bros. Club. “As long as you have a Switch, the game and are able to play online, you can enter.”

Mozzone also explained that the club is moving away from being a Smash-exclusive club in order to be more inclusive for those who have neither a game nor a Switch.

“We acknowledge that not everyone has the console or the game, or has access to it, so we also do game nights on Fridays,” Mozzone said. “We pick a free game anyone can access: we’ve done Jackbox, we’ve done Among Us, we’ve done Pictionary.”

Orcino said she believes that in the future GU students will be very involved with their clubs due to lost opportunity during the pandemic. 

“The traditions that many clubs have and embrace are able to continuously grow and adapt to be the best version possible," Orcino said. "The pandemic will also give student leaders the benefit of flexibility in having meetings virtually, better technology infrastructure and the ability to operate under tough conditions with better resilience.”

Red Kwenda is a staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @redkwendawriter.

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