Temple student organizations adjust to university’s closure

Clubs are transitioning online due to the COVID-19 outbreak and are trying to maintain membership engagement.

Strong Men Overcoming Obstacles Through Hardwork (S.M.O.O.T.H), has transitioned their activities online by communicating on Zoom and group chats. | S.M.O.O.T.H Inc, Temple University Chapter / COURTESY

For Insomnia Theater, Temple’s 24-hour student theater company that produces four performances a year, not being able to meet in-person makes their work almost impossible.

“There’s no way we can transition the things we do into an online format. You can’t do a theater performance on Zoom, it just doesn’t work,” said Anna Rodefeld, a sophomore media studies and production major who serves as the organization’s marketing director.

Rodefeld feels that for her student organization, halting activities for the rest of the semester is the only way to move forward. After Temple announced on March 11 it would suspend all in-person classes due to concerns over the COVID-19 outbreak, student organizations have since been trying to find ways to transition online while attempting to continue scheduled activities as well as maintaining membership engagement. 

Despite discontinuing performances, Insomnia Theater recently held its executive board election on Zoom, a video conferencing platform. Members are disappointed in the way the year turned out but understand the decision to halt performances, Rodefeld said.

“They’ve all been incredibly understanding, they understand these are incredible times and there’s not a lot anyone can do about it,” she added. “We have really great members and they’ve all been gems through this entire process.” 

Francesca Capozzi, a junior political science and English major and Temple University’s student body president, has worked to get Temple Student Government adjusted to the change while still fulfilling their responsibilities as elected student leaders.

“It’s honestly a very scary time but it’s important for all of us to come together as a community,”  Capozzi said.

TSG held a meeting prior to the university’s announcement to close to discuss the likelihood of a shutdown. They had to cancel planned collaborations due to closure of Main Campus but are now using Zoom to hold meetings.

“All previous plans have been put on hold,” Capozzi said. “Unfortunately, after discussions with the offices on campus that we planned on collaborating with for different events in the upcoming weeks we thought it would best to postpone a lot of these events for a later time.”

Celeste Rosato, a senior advertising major, is the president of the Temple Advertising Club. When confronted with the news that campus was shutting down, she still wanted to find a way to continue activities for her members.

“I could just cancel everything for next year, but TAC means so much to me that I’m so willing to help, even if I’m hopefully working full-time next year,” she said. “I really want to be there and help them because it’s definitely not the ending that we wanted.”

TAC mainly uses its meetings to host guest speakers and had planned a panel for professionals from the pharmacy advertising industry as well as a diversity and inclusion panel with the Temple Public Relations Student Society of America prior to the shift online. Rosato is trying to move both events to Zoom.

The rapid developments surrounding the outbreak are still shocking and hard to believe, Rosato said. 

“This definitely doesn’t feel real at times,” she said. “My heart goes out to everyone who’s been affected by this. Just trying to stay positive and be encouraged that everyone’s going through pretty much similar things.”

Darius Hockaday, a senior marketing major, is the president of Strong Men Overcoming Obstacles Through Hardwork, an organization for Black men focusing on professional development and community service. The organization’s leadership was caught off guard by the decision to move to online instruction, he said.

“It completely changed the way we were moving these past two months of the semester,” Hockaday added. “We had an idea that this was coming but we didn’t know that it was going to happen so fast.”

Hockaday had been planning the organization’s S.M.O.O.T.H. Week, an initiative to get members involved in weeklong service initiatives. Instead, for the remainder of March, the organization plans to use social media to highlight successful Black female entrepreneurs and organizations that would’ve been featured at their Black Women’s Appreciation Expo.

S.M.O.O.T.H. maintains communication through Zoom and group chats and is actively working to elect and prepare their new leaders for the fall. 

Hockaday believes his group’s work shouldn’t stop due to the outbreak and that they should find ways to host their events while practicing social distancing, he said.

“Just because we’re locked down under quarantine doesn’t mean we can’t be advocates for things going on in our community,” he added. “For instance, hunger, and working to provide positive affirmations for people really struggling during this time.”

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