Marshall University staff members said student organi- zations will be able to meet and have events during the fall 2020 semester if they follow safety guidelines because it is important to stay connected.
“I have always believed people don’t necessarily join an organization, I think people join other people, and if the only way we can make that happen is virtually, then we must do it,” said Andy Hermansdorfer, director of student involvement and leadership. “I believe now more than ever our students need each other. So, if virtual is our only op- tion, we as organizations have to take advantage of it.”
Hermansdorfer said though the Office of Student Af- fairs may not have answers to all questions from Marshall organizations, the department’s staff are working to com- pile a list of ways organizations at other universities are planning to execute recruiting and events to give Marshall organizations ideas on how they can stay connected virtu- ally, or safely in person.
Guidelines and recommendations have been sent to cur- rent organizations outlining how groups will be able to meet safely in person, but organizations are being encour- aged to meet virtually. Some of the guidelines include that all events and meetings will be registered on HerdLink,
attendance for events must be taken in order to make sure state and local safety guidelines are being followed, re- cruitment events are encouraged to be outside if possible and will require hand sanitizer at all tables, someone will be responsible for making sure organization members are following safety guidelines and more. A complete list of guidelines can be found on Marshall’s website.
Hermansdorfer said he hopes the guidelines can be lifted soon, but the Office of Student Affairs is trying to keep ev- eryone safe by preparing for the worst.
“We just want our organizations to know that things could change,” he said. “Fingers crossed, maybe there’s a vaccine soon, but the worst case scenario is kind of what we’re planning for, just to be safe.”
The Office of Student Affairs has organized multiple safety trainings that members of every recognized orga- nization will have to participate in in order to organize meetings and events.
Hermansdorfer said he has recommended between 10- 20% of each organization’s members should partake in the COVID-19 training sessions. He said the training will include basic sanitation guidelines as well as how students should react if members show up to an event and do not comply with Marshall’s and the state guidelines.
Matt James, assistant dean of student affairs, said the
regulations and guidelines are also being recommended for Greek Life at Marshall. He said the fraternities and so- rorities have been working to have virtual recruitment and are planning to have activities outside if possible.
Before Marshall President Jerry Gilbert announced that most courses would be virtual, with exceptions for fresh- men, graduate students, and some courses in between, both Hermansdorfer and James said members of student organizations have been working on virtual events and re- cruitment for incoming freshmen.
Hermansdorfer said there have been emails sent out to incoming students explaining the benefits of getting involved to give students an opportunity to join organi- zations before they have arrived on campus. James said incoming students have also been sent an informational survey to answer questions regarding their interests and previous organizations they have been involved in so that they can be connected to organizations they may be interested in.
“We have emailed a very informational, great student survey, and we’re starting to match those students with student organizations,” James said. “We’re capturing a student population that we don’t typically capture
“…So, by reaching out to students and getting them connected to student organizations before they even get here, we’re hoping to see an uptick in recruitment.”
James also said the semester will be different for Greek life because the organizations are heavily based on social aspects. He said Greek life is sometimes just known for partying, and he thinks the coronavirus pandemic has actually provided an opportunity for the Greek community to show off their core values and other positive aspects of joining a fraternity or sorority.
Nick Sabo, vice president of recruitment and reten- tion for the Interfraternity Council, and Zach Smith, president for IFC, said Greek life often gets seen just for partying, but the community does more than that.
“We do more than just get drunk on the weekends and go out to bars,” Sabo said. “We have philanthropies, we do community service, we do a lot of stuff for the university and the community, aside from all the Hol- lywood stereotypes.”
Smith said he thinks despite the troubles of the pan- demic, this semester will be an opportunity for Greek life to spend time together while doing service for the community.
“I think our chapters, the main thing they all want to do is get together as a chapter,” Smith said. “Parties, they put us in kind of a negative light a lot of the time, but it doesn’t portray all of us. When you take (par- ties) away for the semester, that feeling of wanting to get together doesn’t change, so the community service events and philanthropy events, those things are going to start popping off because those are some of the few events people can still get together safely.”
The training provided to members of student or- ganizations will also review the new changes to the Student Code of Conduct regarding what can happen to students who do not follow the university guidelines to ensure safety. Students who choose not to follow university guidelines can face penalties ranging from a written warning to expulsion. James said the trainings for student organizations are important for the pur- pose of informing people what to do to stay safe and also warning them what could happen if they do not follow safety guidelines.
“We’ve got to be responsible because one person can mess it up for everybody, and the only way we not do that is to educate them on the front end, and then also tell them if you don’t comply, these are the things that are going to happen,” he said.
James said he encourages any student, whether they are a new student or a returning one, to reach out if they have any questions about student activities and orga- nizations. Hermansdorfer said he hopes new students understand their entire college experience will not be virtual and they are not alone during these times.
“Our students need to be flexible and understand that most of our contact this semester will be made virtually, and it’s not always going to be this way, but that’s just the way it is right now,” Hermansdorfer said. “So new students, you may be in your room, you may be physically alone, but you don’t have to be alone. Just get on your computer and join an organization that’s having virtual events.”
Sarah Ingram can be contacted at [email protected] marshall.edu.