As COVID-19 case numbers rise in Polk County, Drake and its student organizations have brought back many in-person events while still maintaining some COVID-19 precautions.
Drake Director of Student Life Isaac Newsome said that students are “free to go about things as normal as can be,” as long as they wear masks indoors and are conscious to not overfill the capacity of an indoor space.
Newsome said that if a student organization were to require attendees of an event to be vaccinated, he would talk with them to find out the reasons behind the decision before he would allow it. He also said that students haven’t been pushing back on COVID-19 protocols and are willing “to do whatever it takes” to put safety first.
“We’ll be keeping an eye on the variants and how those progress, and if anything gets too extreme we’ll have to make changes as they come,” Newsome said. “But as of now, we’re just hoping people continue to get vaccinated. We have our student leaders; some are pushing for vaccines.”
Student Activities Board (SAB) President Maddie Huan said that SAB will hold many of its events outside to lower the risk posed by COVID-19, including Free Movie Fridays and Taste of Des Moines.
“As much as our events can be outside, we are trying to do that,” Huan said. “ ‘Cause that is just, like, a safer space for everybody.”
Huan said that all of SAB’s events are planned to be in-person, but the board is ready to hold events virtually if the Drake administration moves classes back online. Student Senator of Equity and Inclusion Ruwayda Egal said that Drake’s multicultural organizations have been holding all of their events in person so far.
“I feel like the events I went to last year had a very small amount of people come, even the events that were in person, and just going to a few last week, you could really see people of those different multicultural organizations coming together, forming communities,” Egal said. “Which is really nice, especially for first-years who have yet to know the multicultural events, the multicultural organizations.”
The current situation with event programming stands in contrast with the spring of 2020, when COVID-19 first spread across the United States. When Drake moved its classes online, student organizations had to adapt to serve a Drake community that was spread out across Iowa and the nation, connected only by the Internet.
“For all of our student organizations, me and our events team had to look at each event on campus, [and] make sure they were following COVID policies,” Newsome said. “If they’re passing things out, if there’s food there: how is food being packaged, how is food being handled. So we had to look into every single detail of their event.”
Newsome said that last year, the administration wanted student programming to be “more virtual than not,” and that “at least a couple hundred events” did not take place because of COVID-19. According to Sean Cusick, a captain of Drake’s men’s ultimate frisbee (DUC) team, things looked very different for DUC last year due to the pandemic.
“We didn’t really have many practices. We couldn’t hold normal practices,” Cusick said. “I had heard we did some smaller, more informal things with small groups, but we never organized anything with the team.”
Another reason the DUC team stayed dormant last year was because USA Ultimate, the governing body that holds the tournaments DUC plays in, did not hold any tournaments last year. This year, however, things seem to be looking up for DUC as 34 new people signed up for the club at the Activities Fair alone.
“Even when I was captaining two years before, before the pandemic we were struggling with numbers,” Cusick said. “So it’s really good this year that it looks to be on the upturn and more people are getting interested in it.”