A Change in Pace: How COVID-19 Affect Student Organizations

COVID-19 was an unforeseen trial for everyone. It has made an impact on all of us in some way. Activities are different now than they were over a year ago. Students have had to adapt in order to continue meeting up. The University of Wisconsin-Platteville campus has various groups of individuals with similar interests who enjoy getting together and doing activities. There are over 200 clubs and student organizations for pleasure, business and most things in between. All of these clubs had to adapt to this pandemic, the University has made it mandatory that masks must be worn all times in the building, and the school has provided hand sanitizer in all classrooms and lab areas. Students are also asked to watch their distance and follow social distancing protocols.

An interview via email with Becky Hass, the advisor for the Segregated University Fee Allocation Commission, showed the impact that COVID-19 has had. When asked about what SUFAC does, she replied, “SUFAC is the recognized student governance body responsible for distributing the allocable segregated fee that undergraduate students pay. That fee is distributed amongst those eligible to use the funds, namely student organizations. Using policy, and following all the applicable laws, SUFAC distributes the money in a viewpoint-neutral manner to groups that request money.”

When asked how long it took to adjust during the pandemic and what had to change, Hass said that SUFAC adjusted quickly, and the process for requesting money was already on PioneerLink, so that did not change.

However, there were a few major obstacles that SUFAC had to overcome in order to meet. For example, during lockdown, everything had to go to remote interaction over Zoom. This hindered the group from meeting face-to-face. In the fall of 2020, student organizations were allowed to meet again only if they had a limited number of people per group and wore masks while keeping their distance of six feet. In addition to these issues, the election process for SUFAC had to change from getting 15 physical signatures to just submitting something that says they wanted to join; then they go through an interview before being sworn in.

Hass also wanted more people to not be afraid to ask questions and get involved with SUFAC. “Dealing with finances is never an easy topic, and it can be quite anxiety-producing for folks. SUFAC tries to make it as easy as possible.” As Hass said, finances, especially at the college age, are tricky, and she wants everyone to know that there are resources available.

Getting involved also opens the door for many opportunities. “It is a great way to get involved, and something that is great to add to a resume for the experience you gain,” said Haas.

Another group, out of hundreds, that had to adjust how they interact is the College Democrats of Wisconsin, Platteville Chapter. In an interview, the president of CDWPC, Cecelia Feiner, a junior majoring in Political Science and minoring in Sociology and Women and Gender Studies, discussed what some of the differences are this year compared to last year.

Feiner said, “This year has been drastically different because of COVID-19. During the 2018 midterm elections, we were able to door-knock across Grant County to talk to voters, in addition to making phone calls, writing postcards, holding forums on campus, etc. We were not able to do that because of COVID-19. We had to change everything about what we did as an organization.”

Instead, her organization had to move completely online and had to find safer ways to contact the voters in the area, like phone calls, letters or postcards.

Adaptation is a vital part of life and taking that first step towards change is the most challenging. Student organizations look forward to meeting more in person and hope to slowly move back to how things used to be with the vaccine more readily available.