University societies challenged by covid-19

By Rita Flores

University of Essex societies are having difficulties to keep their promises to their members due to the restrictions of covid-19, which makes possible just having online meetings.

The Irish society promised their members to provide a space for students to create more friends and a range of social events, starting with cooking and finishing with sports and folklore activities, but those events are only happening online.

The president of the Irish Society, Suzanne Latre, said: “We are trying to diversify as much as we can, doing cooking events, quizzes, video games calls and just regular talks. We are also doing partnerships with other societies and we did a mutual event with the History Society to meet more people too.”

The University of Essex Writing Society is also working hard in providing new events, as Tal Rejwan, the president, said: ” We have weekly writing workshops, as a member, you can create your workshop on a topic of your choosing. We are currently having a writing competition in collaboration with the Irish Society. And we are in contact with several published writers. We have some fun surprises for this term and the next one.”

The real problem is that online events will never beat in-person ones, said Latre, and she is aware that this year it has been harder for people to connect with each other inside the society, partly because there are always members who are shyer to come to Zoom events.

The Writing Society agrees that under these conditions it’s very difficult to keep people engaged and to attend online workshops, especially because students are already having zoom university classes. ” It can be devastating if we plan a workshop and no one shows up,” said Rejwan.

Both societies complained that this year was hard for them to get new members and the Rejwan said he was worried about the continuation of the society: “We have quite a few new members but we have a strong fear that no one will run for executive positions for next year, since most of our current executive are graduating this year.”

Societies always had the purpose of allowing students to socialise outside of classes but it has not been easy to make Zoom events a sociable environment.