For college students in the coronavirus era, it is very hard to meet new people.
This has become especially hard due to the moratorium that Penn State placed on registered student organization meetings.
When people ask a Penn Stater what they got out of their college experience, extracurricular activities are almost always at the top of their list, as these activities allow students to socially interact while participating in something they are passionate about.
The university should allow RSOs to meet in person based on each group’s discretion, with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines enforced and followed.
According to Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers, “activities beyond informal, outdoor meetings are being discouraged without strong departmental support.” Currently, the only RSOs that can meet in person are religious organizations.
If and when the moratorium is lifted, organizations will be encouraged to make reservations for space on campus and talk to Student Affairs regarding event plans.
However, there are ways for organizations to safely meet right now. Whether it be outside, in a classroom or in an auditorium, students could meet in person while remaining socially distanced at a certain capacity.
After all, if the university found conditions safe enough for students to return to campus this fall, students should have the opportunity to get involved and meet one another face-to-face.
Participation in clubs and organizations is beneficial for students’ mental health, and acts as “protection against more dangerous activities,” according to clinical psychologist Mary Rooney. This ability to participate is especially important during the pandemic.
Though Zoom has its perks, nothing compares to a face-to-face interaction. Students shouldn’t have to go to dorm rooms, apartments or houses in order to hang out with people. And, when they do this, social distancing, mask wearing and other safety precautions likely won’t be enforced.
Some student organizations might operate well over Zoom. However, based on the organization, Zoom meetings can create a disconnect between members. The decision to hold meetings and gatherings in person should be made on a case-by-case basis.
The university should trust RSO leaders and their respective faculty advisers to make the best decision for their organizations.
Penn State issued a planning document with considerations for RSOs, which were separated into organization, membership and special considerations.
Each issued letter outlined completely different guidelines. For instance, technology would be encouraged among physical activity organizations so the group could connect virtually, whereas a cappella and vocal rehearsals could take place in person as long as singers were distanced by 12-14 feet.
The current guidelines that prevent students from interacting face-to-face may deter people from wanting to join certain organizations. A “one-size-fits-all” solution for over 1,000 RSOs does not make sense, as each group has a different purpose and different amount of members.
Rather than preventing students from meeting in person or planning to micro-manage students if and when they can meet in person, the university should create basic guidelines for RSOs based on the type of organization and number of members. The university could then trust student leaders and faculty advisers to monitor and enforce guidelines, and create club-specific rules, when needed.
Ultimately, as long as students are on campus, student organizations should be allowed to start meeting in person for the sake of Penn State students’ mental health and campus involvement — with safety guidelines in place, of course.
Daily Collegian Opinion Editor Ashley Hayford can be reached at email@example.com.