Coley Birchfield, Correspondent
After five months, students returned to Jacksonville State University’s campus last week.
Smiles were hidden behind masks, meetings were virtual and outdoor crowds were limited. Nonetheless, the student organizations on campus ensured all students were able to create friends and memories.
Jerod Sharp, JSU’s SGA president, said the goals for last week’s series of events were “to engage students with events while also aiming for the highest degree of safety in regards to COVID-19”.
Beginning Aug. 12, all students who were in search of a fraternity or sorority were given a chance to experience “Recruitment Week”. Organized by Fraternity and Sorority Life, it was a week filled with dress-up days, a variety of events and potential new friendships among those who went through the process.
Madison Watson, a second-year member of Phi Mu, said that the experience was special because she’s able to “welcome all of these amazing girls into our sisterhood” and “share what makes our bond so special”.
Some noticeable differences from past recruitment weeks were seen throughout the different organizations. Most events were held virtually, and if they occurred in-person they were limited, outdoor events with mandatory face coverings. Even with the many changes the members experienced, most ended the week with a positive review.
“I was pleasantly surprised by how many real connections I made over Zoom throughout the week,” said Hannah Grace Weathers, a JSU freshman. “I have already made so many lifelong connections and I am excited for my future in Greek Life!”
Jacksonville State University’s move-in week was concluded with an event sponsored by the SGA and Residence Life. A drive-in movie was shown in the parking lot of Pete Mathews Coliseum on Aug. 15. It was a chance for the new residents to enjoy a break before their first week of classes. JSU embraced the trend of drive-in movies sweeping the nation following closing movie theaters. This outdoor event was open to all students that attend JSU, even those off-campus. Students were asked to socially distance and wear a mask when unable.
The annual freshmen convocation also officially welcomed all class of 2024 students on campus. Students were treated to free food, a performance by the JSU cheerleaders, Cocky and the Marching Southerners. The ceremony also recognized the tradition of ringing the bell. It symbolizes “ringing in” the new students and the beginning of their collegiate careers.
The Dean of Students Office, the event sponsor, abided by all mandated guidelines. In recent years students were crowded inside of Burgess-Snow Field. This year students were spaced six feet apart and were required to wear masks. Even with those restrictions, many freshmen still travelled to Burgess-Snow Field for this annual tradition.
An event hosted by the International House was an opportunity for the different cultures of the International House to interact with other JSU students. The International House is a source of pride for the university and its emphasis on cultural representation.
“The SGA takes a strong stand on equality, and has a zero-tolerance [policy] for discrimination of any kind,” said Sharp. “We support all students on campus and we are willing to do all that we can to make sure you are heard”.
One of the first events held on campus every year is Get On Board Day. It is an annual event where clubs and organizations from around campus join together on Dillon Field. The SGA organized the event to allow all students to connect with and explore the various ways to get involved as a Gamecock.
The types of clubs students were able to interact with included leadership, honors, arts, religion, Greek Life, and more. Even with plenty of interaction, a six feet social distance was enforced as frequently as possible. The event was also held outdoors with a mask requirement.
When asked about her experience at the event, Mary Turner said, “It was a little weird having to stay six feet apart. People would come up every couple of minutes to remind us to space out, but it was still a good way to get involved.”
The week wrapped up with two events hosted by SGA on Aug. 19 and Aug. 20. The goal of these functions were to allow students to be introduced to the leaders who represent them.
Students were allowed to test their skills at the Recreation and Fitness Center combine and grab some free food at the SGA Hangout. Both of these events had pre-reserved entry to ensure limited crowds as well as a mandatory mask policy. If you are interested in exploring future SGA sponsored events throughout the year, visit the events calendar on the JSU website.
As expected the week was full of atypical guidelines for these events. COVID-19 state mandates were followed in every event which ensured that every student would remain healthy. Josh Robinson described the week as “an overall success for everyone involved”. He also stated how pleased the Dean of Students Office was that all organizations abided by the recommended restrictions.