While the Student Activities Board at Truman State University is known for hosting large social functions on campus, this fall semester will likely look a little different. COVID-19 has complicated any wide-scale gathering, making SAB’s implementation of safety precautions more important than ever. The organization set a precedent for those standards the past few weeks with socially distanced events for students to attend.
The Back to School Bash on Aug. 21 included DIY tie-dye masks and caricature drawings, followed by Quad canvas painting on Sunday. Although these types of activities were fairly routine for the organization in years past, SAB President Josh Jay explained, they now require more extensive planning.
“For all events we have a risk evaluation form and a risk matrix, and then for our larger events we do a full-on risk management form,” Jay said. “We’ll probably be doing a lot more of those with [COVID-19]. For all of ours this year, there’s a whole section on how the event is going to be socially distanced and sanitized.”
The Quad location has helped in carrying out these guidelines, allowing individuals and tables to be socially distanced. Students are also being encouraged to sign up for events ahead of time so that attendee numbers can be managed.
Even with these parameters, however, Jay emphasized that several other factors needed to be considered throughout the course of the event.
“For the ‘tie-dye your own mask,’ in between each time someone would come to tie-dye, [an SAB member] would sanitize all the equipment before the next person could come,” Jay said. “There was a max of 10 in that area at a time so it was slower getting people through the event than it would normally be, but that was just to keep people spread out. We were gonna have caricature artists come to do paintings, but then we just switched that to virtual. So, a lot more [planning] than normal, and that’ll be the same with all of our events.”
Jay explained that this strategizing process is executed so that student involvement can be maintained during this time. Students recognized the time and effort dedicated to making the event possible with current circumstances in mind.
Freshman Claudia Chia described her gratitude for the preparation that went into setting up and providing materials in addition to carrying out safety initiatives at Sunday’s canvas painting.
“I was actually kind of surprised,” Chia said. “Everything’s super organized and they have all the supplies for us.”
Structure is now essential when it comes to these events, but so is having fun. Coming back to school amid a global pandemic, Jay said SAB understands that this aspect of campus life is important for all members of the University to relax and recuperate for the days and weeks ahead.
Freshman Kayla Duggan echoed that sentiment at Sunday’s canvas painting event.
“It’s a fun thing to do in our downtime,” Duggan said. She added that masks and social distancing helps participants to stay safe while also enjoying the company of friends.
Though attendees must stay spaced out to prevent infection, Jay clarified that SAB wants students to continue creating strong bonds through their activities. Jay and other SAB members understand the power of events like these to let students sustain a sense of togetherness during unpredictable times.
“It’s still a way of meeting people,” Jay said. “It’s still a way of doing something safe and socially distanced with friends that you’ve already made, and it’s still a way of interacting with Truman — not just being in your dorm hall the entire time. It’s a way of getting out and socializing.”
Following a time of widespread isolation and during an era of uncertainty, Jay affirmed that the connection that results from their events is imperative. Several activities have been planned to achieve that goal this semester through more mindful mediums.
Upcoming SAB gatherings include movie showings on the quad, coffee house-style outdoor performances and take-home DIY kits. Jay said he looks forward to instilling similar camaraderie within these safer involvement opportunities.
“I hope, especially for students who haven’t done anything remotely social for five months, to be able to keep those interactions up,” Jay said. “Trying to keep that community is helpful.”