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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Student organizations follow university’s lead in returning to in-person operations

Article Originally Published by Yaryzza Lira on North Texas Daily

Article Originally Published by Yaryzza Lira on North Texas Daily

The university’s student clubs and organizations have begun preparing for the upcoming semester with decreasing amount of COVID-19 restrictions.

There are more than 450 student organizations at the university, which can all be found on OrgSync. Currently, many are working on recruiting new members to their organizations.

“Just so far by what we’ve recruited through social media, we have already surpassed [previous membership rates],” Speech and Debate Co-President Gavvy Lott said. “It’s super exciting.”

Social media has played a large part in campus-wide recruitment efforts. The University Program Council utilizes frequent posts on Twitter and Instagram to let students know what it is doing, said Vice President of Membership Grace Davis. The organization will also use social platforms to boost membership application links.

“A lot of our recruitment process has been with getting new students at orientation interested,” Davis said.

The new student orientations are held during the summer and both in-person and virtual formats were offered this year. These sessions are a way for new students to transition into university life by meeting with student organizations, new classmates, faculty and staff.

“Usually the orientation managers ask us to come out for orientation because obviously we know a lot of the history of the university, we’re the spirit and we have all the different traditions,” Talons President Mikayla Lambert said. “A lot of times we get asked to go speak at orientation lectures and things like that, so we’ve been doing that all summer. […] That’s been one way we’ve been getting connected with the new members and trying to advertise [Talons].”

After a couple semesters online, some clubs have seen a decline in membership. Other organizations have seen steady membership through the virtual semesters, like the Black Student Union.

“Pre-COVID, I think we had about 20 active debaters,” Lott said. “A lot of those members graduated and then because of COVID-19 that lack of mentorship, like older debaters teaching younger debaters, was pretty substantial for our team. In debate, it is really about personal interactions.”

The university is working towards a “full Fall 2021 university experience,” according to an official notice from President Neal Smatresk sent on May 14. Following Gov. Greg Abbott’s Executive Order GA-36, the university no longer requires face masks. Over the summer, social distancing on-campus has been phased out, water fountains have been turned back on, elevator occupancy limits have been lifted and the conversion of classrooms to a pre-COVID-19 configuration has begun.

Student organizations are following these new guidelines while planning for the upcoming semester. Along with its weekly member meetings, UPC hosts events for all university students to attend including live music, movies, art and more. During this past year, their events have been completely virtual.

“Based off of UNT’s protocols, we are planning on going back to in-person events,” Davis said. “We are currently planning our calendar and getting all of our events booked and in order, so we are trying to go back to an in-person, normal semester. […] We will just really go along with the university guidelines that are given to us.”

Speech and Debate is planning to possibly use a hybrid model for its weekly meetings and events. This model would allow members to choose whether they want to meet in-person or attend virtually.

“We don’t want to force anyone to show up in person,” Lott said. “Our squad is growing pretty fast and our practice room, although we love it, is not super big. We want to make sure that there’s always [a remote] option so we never forcing anyone to show up in person.”

Student clubs and organizations have been preparing throughout the summer in various ways for the upcoming semester.

“We are so excited about this opportunity of being able to go back in-person and we are really trying our best to plan some really fun events,” Davis said. “I know that when we have fun planning, implementing and getting to pick out these events that students have an amazing time at. I think this semester and year is going to be really good for us and for campus.”

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

Source: North Texas Daily

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