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Grandparents now welcome: student clubs adapt to online environment

Next Wednesday from 5-6p.m. and Friday from 6-7p.m., over 60 students will be dancing simultaneously to the song “Boss B*tch” over Zoom.  Some students may be accompanied by siblings, others by grandparents. Two weeks into online classes, Synchrony II—a student-run dance company—is just one of many student organizations that are having conversations about how to navigate the spring, or have already had their first virtual meeting.

“There is something to be said for maintaining some amount of normalcy through the different organizations on campus, which can just be really helpful, as a sort of opt-in, opt-out type of situation,” said Siena Leone-Getten ’21, President of the Carleton Democrats (or CarlDems for short).  

In the spring, the CarlDems typically host phone banks and door-knocking events three or four times a week. “It’s tough because there are always people who come out of the woodwork and really want to get some stuff done, when we are really focused on campaigns—and that always happens in the spring,” said Leone-Getten.  

“If I go to every phone bank, every once in a while I’m going to bring a random friend who I just had dinner with, and they’re going to do it, and then people slowly become more integrated,” she continued. “So, we do miss out on that because you have to seek it out now. We can’t just be like, come to this event or volunteer for this thing.”   

Women in Economics is another club concerned with recruitment during the spring. “Winter term our club has been doing a lot of building. We used to be maybe a two-events-a-term kind of deal, and we’re trying to make it more of a community,” said Katie Rose Parsons ’20, co-leader of Women in Economics.

“It’s a lot more intimidating to just pop in for the first time by joining a Zoom call or a Google Hangouts, than it is when the gathering is always happening in Sayles and you can just stick your head in,” she continued. “Just generally, building relationships is harder over technology.” 

Bridge Club is one student organization that already has practice operating online, using the website Bridgebase.com (BBO), which most members are familiar with from previous online tournaments or the qualifying rounds of the Collegiate Bridge Bowl.

When the group meets, Sophie Maymudes ’20 and Allie Clark ’22, President and Vice President of Bridge Club, set up tables for members on BBO. “Then we also set up a Zoom call for everyone who is playing at the tables on BBO, and we just all talk and chat and have fun, like we normally would at Bridge Club,” added Clark.  

Spring events cancelled  

For many cultural organizations, a remote spring means the loss of large-scale community  events that cannot be moved online. In the past, the Latin American Student Organization (LASO) has hosted Carnaval—“celebrating Latinx culture with a night of music, dancing, and fun featuring a live salsa band and student DJs.”  

They are also one of the student clubs that often partners with the Office of International and Intercultural Life (OIIL) to put on the  International Festival. “That’s a huge one. It’s usually outside. Normally all the clubs are involved, all the cultural organizations,” said Ceci DeLeon ’21, LASO co-president.

Mosaic of South Asian Interests at Carleton (MOSAIC) was planning to hold two large events in the spring: their second-annual South Asia Night, an event that typically costs them between $3000 and $4000 of their annual budget, and Holi, the festival of colors.

“It’s definitely hard not being able to see everyone all at once, especially because we are a cultural organization. We have people from everywhere in the world,” said Eesha Shah ’22. “But I think moving online has also provided some new opportunities for us to figure out different ways of interacting with each other, and potentially paving new paths in that direction.”

For club sports teams, spring events were also canceled or rescheduled. All five frisbee teams, typically headed to compete in tournaments over Spring break, had to call off the trips. “We had to recover tournament fees, and some league dues for competitions and events that were canceled,” said Aaron Chaput, Director of Club Sports. 

After the momentum of a successful season, many seniors are still processing it’s abrupt end.  “Right now, we’re all still figuring out this new normal,” said Laura Kiernan ’20, co-captain of Eclipse, the DIII Women’s Frisbee team. 

Inclusion: Anyone can join in

One way to stay connected this spring will be through the radio—though not using FM broadcasting, KRLX will continue to broadcast online. “I think we’ve been broadcasting online for over 15 years,” said Cole Schiffer ’21, Station Manager.    

Over the past few weeks, the KRLX board has individually trained over 90 student DJs how to operate the online DJ mixing software, Mixxx, in order to broadcast their shows live. If students have an unstable internet connection, they can also pre-record shows to ensure they run smoothly.   

Typically, the radio has to follow strict Federal Communications Commision (FCC) rules that ensure the radio is running 24/7. Students usually sign a contract, and can be banned from KRLX if they cancel a show. “That used to be a big thing—you have to show up to your show on time, every time,” said Schiffer.

However, since spring will be online-only, these FCC regulations do not apply. An email to the KRLX Community reads, “We want to center our focus on the radio being comforting, creative, and accommodating. Unlike terms in the past, if for any reason you become unable or stop wanting to host your show, just reach out to us to cancel.” To prioritize DJ wellness, the shows will also be held during the day—whenever the “day” is in a student’s particular time zone. 

“We have different modes of thought, right? For one, it’s very exciting and very fun to think,  wow, everybody’s going to be able to do the most spectacular shows. People are at home and have so much time. But at the same time, we’re in a pandemic and for a lot of people, this is extra difficult,” said Schiffer.

The KLRX Board has also decided to add the option to host “one-time” shows.  Each week, a form will be sent out to book these hour-long slots, allowing students more flexibility.  

“We want people to recognize how exciting and special it is to have a radio show—how people can do things they couldn’t really imagine they can do, and interview people they couldn’t really imagine they can. It’s a very exciting thing and a very temporary thing we get to do,” Schiffer added. Students can do a show with family members, friends, or other co-hosts—either in person or via Zoom.

“I might even do a show with my little brother, and we’ll just mess around with random instruments,” said Xander Idrogo, RF Engineer for KRLX.

Relaxed participation 

Synchrony II will also allow everyone to get involved. “We have some grandparents. We have a lot of siblings. It’s not like everyone brings their family, but it does have a family component, which I think is super fun,” said Lisa Torstenson ’20, co-director of Synchrony.

Each dance will host synchronous meeting times on Zoom, and then the choreographers will upload a snippet of what they taught that day onto Synchrony’s new YouTube channel. “So if people wanted to learn the dance, but couldn’t go to the synchronous meeting, they can at least watch the short video of what they want,” said Torstenson.

She mentioned that they are hoping to do a huge Zoom performance at the end of the term – either by having everyone call into one meeting, or by recording each person individually and then splicing the videos together. 

“I think Synchrony has always been about connecting with your classmates, and being joyful, and forgetting about this stress in your life, and I think it’s been really cool to see that that hasn’t really gone away,” added Torstenson.

Club leaders of the Accidentals and Lenny Dee agree—they want participation to be fun, and do not want to place an undue burden on students. “Making music is an additive thing in our lives, so we’re trying to feel out the waters of what people’s stress levels are,” said Anna Schumacher ’21, co-leader of the Accidentals.  

“Comedy and Lenny Dee is not something that we ever really want to be a stressful thing. I mean, sometimes it does get stressful around the show week and stuff like that, but particularly with this new venture, we don’t really know what we want to produce,” said Lenny Dee’s Erin Dyke ’21.    

“Our biggest priority is giving people a space to come together and have fun, and whatever product we come up with, if that ends up happening, will hopefully just stem from people being motivated and wanting to do it,” said Arlo Hettle ’22, who is in training to join the leadership of Lenny Dee next year.  

“Anything that we do create, we want to be self-motivated,” he added.

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