Clubs struggle to recruit freshmen amidst pandemic

Clubs like MU’s Asian American Association and Running Club are currently working on new and interactive ways to hold virtual club events.

COVID-19 presents numerous challenges for student involvement and MU organizations intending to safely hold events.

Finding ways to keep each other safe while maintaining a social life can be difficult.

For freshmen, the pandemic hindered the possibilities of social engagement that would have normally taken place during Welcome Week at the beginning of the school year. To create a normal college experience, many students are joining clubs and attending events on campus.

Freshman Chase Goldinger said that the pandemic greatly impacted his ability to meet other people.

“We are unable to go to any mixers or social gatherings, and we are very crippled as far as meeting people,” Goldinger said.

After joining an Agriculture Systems Management Club meeting, Goldinger said everyone wore a mask and did their best to maintain social distancing, which proved club gatherings will not be the same but are still possible.

Many students rely on sororities or fraternities to meet new people, but with recruitment, as well as freshman activities online, involvement looks a bit different. Freshman Elisabeth Seabaugh, who rushed for sorority this year, said getting involved in her sorority was more difficult than usual.

“Usually, you can meet new people through freshman activities,” Seabaugh said. “I feel as if it has been hard to meet girls through that because all of the rush stuff has been online. I haven’t been able to get that person-to-person contact, and that’s definitely how you get to know people.”

Leaders of clubs also noted the impacts of the pandemic on their club’ popularity. With Welcome Week’s events stifled by the pandemic, many organizations were unable to promote their clubs.

Junior Sydney Green, president of Mizzou Club Running, said the pandemic directly correlated with the club’s low turnout.

“Usually, we would have meetings all throughout Welcome Week and get to meet the new freshmen,” Green said. “Our turn out for our first week of practice is usually around 60 to 70 people.”

MU banned gatherings of over 20 people on campus, which makes such events impossible when maintaining social distancing. Unable to gather as a whole group, Green said the situation was “upsetting,” especially since important events like races were pushed back to spring.

Sophomore Ethan Ahn, secretary of the Asian American Association (AAA) also said the pandemic impacted the club’s freshmen attendance. Deciding to go all online back in March, Ahn said the club switched large events, like their UnificAsian, meeting to Zoom.

“Not everyone is a big fan of Zoom, so we weren’t really expecting incredibly high numbers,” Ahn said. “Last year, when I attended the event, it was a place for freshmen to meet new people and see what AAA is all about. I would definitely say that because it was online [this year], it hindered us in meeting new people.”

Despite the lack of in-person events, getting involved and starting the school year strong is still possible, and Ahn said he wants freshmen to stay positive about the current situation.

“It’s definitely much harder this year than it was last year, but at the same time, I think what’s important is that we incorporate a community that people can look forward to,” Ahn said. “Freshmen can make the most out of it.”

Edited by Lucy Caile | lcaile@themaneater.com

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