Student groups move programming online

Campus organizations such as the LGBT Resource Center and LA CASA have moved their usual in-person programs remotely. Other groups such as the Spirit of Troy and the USC Song Girls have experienced changes with recruitment and their practice schedules which have also moved online. (Sara Heymann | Daily Trojan)

When Zach Mollo, the vice president of engagements of the Rebel, Innovators, Startups and Entrepreneurs consulting club, heard that USC was sending its students home for the semester, the first thing he did was contact the club’s clients to assure them that operations would still continue throughout the semester using online platforms like Zoom and FaceTime.

“Most [RISE members] are still pretty excited about their engagement,” said Mollo, a junior majoring in economics. “The ones we did have to cancel, the people were reassigned to move things around so they can actually participate this semester.” 

As the coronavirus pandemic continues in California and the United States, USC has taken action to mitigate risks, including requesting that students in University-owned housing return home if they are able, while city and state governments have imposed limits on gatherings of 10 or more people. As a result, the various programs, special events, conferences and campus activities organized by USC’s student organizations have been either canceled or moved online. 

Artemis, a multimedia production organization that allows students to explore and create intersectional feminism art, moved its meetings online when the University made classes virtual.

“We’re trying as much as possible to keep meeting as frequently as we would be if we were still back at USC,” said Abigail Swoap, co-president of Artemis. “We’ve organized a weekly Zoom meeting where we use our USC Zoom accounts to just meet online like we would normally.”

As classes moved online, clubs have had to modify their event schedules. The Asian Pacific American Student Assembly postponed or canceled its sponsored events. The assembly was planning to hold an L.A. Live “Mulan” film screening and a heritage festival this semester along with culture nights from member organizations such as the Vietnamese Student Association and the Nikkei Student Union, APASA external community chair Justin Kawaguchi said. 

“A lot of different programming initiatives and events have been planned for the semester [for] the month of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Festival,” said Kawaguchi, a junior majoring in global health. “Because of the movement to go online, all of that has been canceled.” 

Left with additional funds and no events to spend them on, some organizations, like the Queer and Ally Student Assembly, plan to put the money back into the USC community. QuASA executive director Steven Vargas also said the group’s programming events have been canceled, but QuASA is looking to contribute its resources to the mutual aid fund, an initiative announced by Undergraduate Student Government President Trenton Stone during his State of USG address. The student government will provide a $70,000 grant for the USC Student Basic Needs Fund, which assists students experiencing housing or food insecurity resulting from circumstances caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our main thing is that we program events that kind of like put us out for the rest of the semester,” Vargas said. “So what we decided to pivot toward was just providing resources and kind of preparing for next year instead.”

While many organizations have opted to delay events, some chose to move them to a virtual format similar to the way classes are held. The LGBT Resource Center has also moved to provide virtual programming including a digital Queer and Trans People of Color Lounge and QuaTRO, the group’s new remote book club. Other cultural centers, including La CASA, have also moved event and activity offerings online. 

Recruiting schedules for organizations such as the Spirit of Troy, Song Girls and Trojan Dance Crew have also been impacted by the online transition. Dates for recruitment are currently unknown with the Song girls and Spirit of Troy but the Trojan Dance Crew have announced virtual auditions to start April 27. While practicing social distancing, the Song Girls have maintained a virtual practice schedule, and the band continues to practice its classic football anthems. 

The Trojan Marching Band recruitment and the fall marching season remains uncertain until further notice from administration, said Brett Padelford, the band’s public relations director. 

Funding is another issue organizations face as the University combats financial uncertainty. Nathaniel Hyman, co-executive director of the Environmental Student Assembly, said the organization had planned to host a sustainability forum April 30 before it was canceled. He said he was concerned about how USC’s loss of revenue during the coronavirus pandemic would affect the assembly’s funding.

“That email that came out yesterday about the University being in financial dire straits is going to likely impact our capital projects,” Hyman said. “I do not know how that’s going to impact our investment into making University more sustainable.” 

Many organizations have chosen to finish up their last few spring projects and start planning for the fall semester. For RISE, this means reaching out to potential new business contacts to partner with, while Artemis is in the beginning of their application process for new artists to present in the coming semester. 

“Luckily, we finished up with our big project this semester, and now we’re in this phase where we’re starting to look for pitches for new projects that we’ll be working on throughout the summer and next year,” Swoap said.

For organizations like Marshall Student Ambassadors, spring is typically the busiest season because of campus visits from admitted students. MSA, which works with the Marshall School of Business Admissions to provide support to prospective students, had planned to participate in seven admissions events this semester, but the last three moved to a virtual format after the University canceled in-person events.

“We’re just kind of having to double our online efforts just to make sure that admitted students still feel like we’re invested in them even though we can’t have that face-to-face connection,” said MSA social media director Emily Strauss, a sophomore majoring in business administration.

Throughout the year, Unruh Associates, an organization focused on civic engagement and bipartisan civil discussion, has transitioned to holding speaker events remotely. The organization has sponsored political discussions on the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates’ campaigns, student forums and debates on current social issues among other events, which the organization has shifted online. 

“One silver lining is that with Zoom, we don’t need to worry about programming issues like classroom space,” said Unruh Associates President Tommy Nguyen, a sophomore majoring in history and international relations. “We can bring in political figures and professionals like Congressman Katie Porter — we’re hoping to bring her on to the [Unruh Associates] because she’s the one that guaranteed free COVID-19 testing.” 

The transition from in-person to virtual meetings presents challenges for some organizations, which have cited issues such as time zone differences, poor internet connection and a lack of motivation to continue club activities in the absence of face-to-face interaction. 

“I think it’s definitely a tough time, and everyone is really worried about just each other, you know, health and safety primarily,” Strauss said. “It seems like everybody has a pretty good attitude about it. You know, everybody understands that it’s kind of a situation that’s out of anyone’s control.”

Maria Eberhart, Ana Mata and Kacie Yamamoto contributed to this report.