Student groups at the University of Minnesota will be allowed to meet in-person during fall semester amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to President Joan Gabel and other administrators.
These groups must stay in compliance with guidelines and restrictions set by health officials, in addition to implementing social distancing measures and wearing masks indoors as required by the University. Many student groups are considering other options for holding meetings, like virtual or hybrid formats.
The University’s Student Unions and Activities has recommended that student groups attempt to host all meetings virtually throughout fall semester.
“Any in-person gatherings organized by student groups will be subject to the University’s public health safety guidelines and requirements,” reads the Student Unions and Activities website. “Additional resources and information will be added regularly throughout July as guidelines for events on campus are finalized.”
SUA has also been communicating updates and guidelines with student groups directly.
“I've gotten some emails with information from SUA, but since some things for next semester aren't yet set in stone, it's obviously hard to anticipate what will actually be happening this fall,” said Melanie Iversen, a member of the mental health and advocacy group Active Minds.
Other groups have already implemented a virtual or hybrid format for meetings.
The Agricultural Business Club has developed a podcast to connect group members with experts from the industry. The group also plans on holding some meetings in person during the fall.
“We still plan to try to do some in-person meetings when we can. The St. Paul campus, where we’ve been holding our meetings, does have the capacity to have proper social distancing,” said Agricultural Business Club member Hayden Pester. “If we need to, we can basically switch up or change the room or something so we have more space.”
The Minnesota Student Association will develop a hybrid model for meetings, where those with a large attendance are held online.
“Our meetings are definitely big enough that I think it would be really nice to err on the side of caution. But we are definitely committed to ensuring the safety of our students,” said President Amy Ma.
Other aspects such as funding, recruiting and University-wide events are also being influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
SUA funding will continue to be available for student groups meeting in person or virtually as long as they comply with health regulations.
Apart from individual meetings, other activities that have historically involved student groups on campus, like the fall activities fair and Paint the Bridge, have been canceled for fall semester.
Welcome Week activities involving student groups will also be held virtually.
“Student Activities is creating other opportunities for groups to virtually engage with incoming students,” reads the SUA website. “Groups will engage incoming students in August through ‘FlipGrid’ videos.”