Back to campus, back to in-person events?
C/O Anna Katherine Verdillo, taken at PNB formal 2019
Student societies, clubs and services are looking forward to in-person events
Soon after the start of the semester, McMaster released a statement regarding in-person classes in the winter 2022 semester with very limited exceptions. In the same update, students were promised pre-pandemic capacity for on-campus student life activities, such as services, resources, events, study spaces and social spaces. In light of this announcement, program councils and McMaster Students Union services have begun considering larger in-person events for winter.
For instance, the Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour Society is in its early stages of planning for its traditional winter formal. Dianne Cardwell, one of the Vice Presidents of Social of PNB Society, hopes in-person events can help students forge new connections within the psychology, neuroscience and behaviour program.
Similarly, the Bachelor of Health Sciences Society typically organizes a formal event in January along with a club night. Two years ago, they also collaborated with societies from kinesiology, engineering and PNB to host a pub night. Currently, it has been difficult for BHSS to plan much ahead, with changing restrictions and guidelines from the government and the school.
“For now, we are trying to see if we can plan based on what we know right now . . . But that’s all going to be dependent on restrictions at that time,” said Michal Moshkovich, one of the Social Coordinators of BHSS.
Recently, on Nov. 25, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore shared that he expects COVID-19 cases to increase through the winter. As COVID-19 cases are predicted to rise as the cold weather settles in, both the PNB Society and BHSS are continuing to observe the situation closely and are considering planning in-person events for the end of the second semester.
With lots of ongoing uncertainty and lack of clarity in communication with the university, MSU services like the Women and Gender Equity Network are preparing to do last-minute planning as well.
Typically, in the winter, WGEN has two big campaign weeks in the second semester: Bodies are Dope, which usually runs in February, and Making Waves, which usually runs in March. The service’s first campaign of the year, [Trans]forming Mac, ran completely online from Nov. 20 to Nov. 25.
“[Planning] has been a little difficult based on how much information we receive . . . For now, the plan is to hopefully do stuff in person. But it might have to be really last-minute planning because we don’t know what the rules are, so that makes it a little difficult to plan in advance which we would ideally like because we want to be able to make sure we book proper rooms for social distancing and things like that,” said Neha Shaw, Director of WGEN.
It is also still unclear whether WGEN’s safe(r) spaces will operate in-person due to accessibility concerns. However, the service has received approval for in-person resource delivery, such as gender-affirming gear, and it is planned to open in the winter.
In general, the PNB society, BHSS and WGEN are all looking forward to at least some opportunities for in-person gatherings and events. They recognize online events feel intimidating and more formal, discouraging participation, compared to dropping by physical, live spaces or events that feel more casual and natural.
“It’s really hard to get people to come out to these online events and not feel intimidated versus in-person events . . . So far, we’ve hosted second-year welcome day and bonfires and the turnout was great because people are just excited to be back on campus and back in social environments where they can interact with people, even if it means following very, very rigid protocols for COVID,” said Moshkovich.
As much as all the societies and services miss the experiences of in-person gatherings, they also recognize the benefits of virtual events.
“With virtual events, there’s higher accessibility. You get things like captioning and people can engage to a level they are comfortable with. I know it can be more awkward to attend Zoom events than it can be in-person events, but at the same time, you can log onto an event and not turn your camera on, you can put your [fake] name [for anonymity] . . . you can type in the chat if that’s easier for you,” said Shaw.
At the end of the day, the main goal of student societies, services and clubs is to connect people together and foster community. Whether it continues to be facilitated virtually or back in person, they will all continue to work towards community building and enhancing the student life at McMaster University.