Student organizations embrace hybrid meeting format

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Photo courtesy of Bazile Panek

Rayna Sherbinow

Student organizations face a difficult decision this semester. When and how to hold meetings is something each group must consider due to COVID-19 restrictions. If groups meet in-person members must wear masks and practice social distancing. If they meet online they may not be able to maintain personal, community-based elements of their meetings. Many groups opt for hybrid meetings that incorporate both online and in-person interactions. In a memorandum to student organizations, the Center for Student Enrichment provided guidelines for in-person meetings this academic year.

“Organizations are allowed to schedule in-person meetings as long as social distancing guidelines, precautions and room capacities are followed,” the CSE wrote. “Any meeting room request with the expected attendance of over 18 people must complete the COVID Event Approval Form after submitting their event request.” The CSE encourages the use of hybrid and virtual formats. The COVID Event Approval form can be found online at https://nmu.edu/safe-on-campus/events.

“The in-person aspect of our meetings really does make a difference, I think,” junior Native American studies major Bazile Panek said. Panek served as president of the Native American Student Association last year and is running for re-election. He said NASA is taking the necessary precautions with masks and social distancing in physical meetings. “If a student still doesn’t feel comfortable and that in-person, social aspect isn’t worth it to them, then that’s why we provide that hybrid option.”

Members of NASA can use Zoom to join meetings virtually. Panek said overall attendance numbers have dropped since shifting to a hybrid format. 

The Black Student Union has also implemented a hybrid meeting format. “I’ll just leave the Zoom up and face the camera towards the room, so it’s like they’re still there within the meeting,” junior medicinal plant chemistry major D’Mario Duckett said.

Duckett, who is BSU’s president, said the organization is following the mask and social distancing requirements. Hybrid meetings have had mixed results. Attendance is higher in person than online, but Zoom has allowed off-campus members to attend without coming to campus. 

Both organizations are making plans for events this semester. NASA is making plans for Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Oct. 12.

“We are having an outdoor section of the event,” Panek said. “And then the evening panelist discussion that we’ve had in years prior will be online over Zoom.”

BSU is planning an event called “The Truth About Voter Suppression” for Sept. 17. It is open to the campus community and the public and will feature political science professor and department head Carter Wilson as a speaker. Duckett said the event will most likely be available via Zoom as well as in person.

It is up to each individual to decide whether and how to participate in student organizations, their meetings, and events.

“Do what makes you feel comfortable,” Duckett said.
Students can email Panek ([email protected]) for more information about NASA, and Duckett ([email protected]) for more information on BSU. To learn more about the Center for Student Enrichment, go to https://www.nmu.edu/studentenrichment/home-page.