By: Nora Klein ‘24 (she/her)
Being a student in a global pandemic means lots of changes to the flow of daily life. Rules and regulations for the good of the community can sometimes feel like limits on the spirit of that community itself. However, clubs and organizations at Davidson are working hard to find creative solutions to keep students engaged and still safely foster that cherished sense of camaraderie and togetherness.
According to Khôi Nguyên Trinh ’22, one of the biggest questions facing FreeWord — a group dedicated to slam poetry and giving students space for poetic expression — is how they can write digitally while still creating community.
Trinh nostalgically remembered Sunday nights with FreeWord in the Hance Auditorium pre-COVID, saying, “It became a much needed space when things became too much, and I just needed to write, share, or just be in the presence of other writers.” While she still enjoys the memories of writing collaborative poems in-person, she also acknowledged, “Now, we all get onto a Google Doc and write, and while it’s different, it’s still fun. We may not get the surprise of seeing the end product, but now, there’s a new element of watching the poem suddenly appear on the page.”
FreeWord is also working on a community project in lieu of holding their usual live showcase. Instead of trying to translate activities to a digital platform, the group is looking for a project that reflects their current state. One new project that they are taking on is a poetry wall for members of the Davidson campus community and residents of the town of Davidson. Once the project commences, FreeWord plans to distribute prompts through their Instagram (@freewordpoets), email, and general meetings.
“We want to create a space to occupy,” Trinh emphasized. “A space for interaction and contact, especially in an era [that] has made most of our typical contact disappear.”
Organizations that are new to campus this year include the Deliberative Citizenship Initiative (DCI) and the Disc Golf Club, which both launched this past fall. Since these organizations know nothing other than operating during COVID, they’ve had to adapt from the beginning.
Ethan Rodier ‘23, a member of the Disc Golf Club, said, “The beauty of disc golf is that not much changes even with COVID; the only major difference is wearing masks and practicing social distancing while we’re playing.” For a new club gaining its footing during COVID, their in-person practices are a crucial aspect of how they continue to function. Using a GroupMe chat to connect and play with others, they take advantage of the Davidson disc golf course and nearby courses in Charlotte. The club’s hopes for this semester include plans to run a few socially-distant disc golf tournaments in the next few months and to refurbish parts of the course on campus.
In this era of the pandemic, Rodier appreciated that “disc golf is a safe and fun way to get outside, be active, and have fun with friends.”
In contrast, DCI’s activities have thus far been completely virtual. They meet weekly to discuss theory and prepare for Deliberative “D” Teams and forums. This semester, 51 students, staff, and community members signed up to participate on seven D Teams. These D teams are virtually discussing COVID, environmental challenges of the 21st century, economic mobility, and policies related to gender and sexuality — topics voted by fellows to be relevant and timely.
DCI is also focusing its energies on hosting two online expert panels this semester: one this Thursday, February 11, and one in late March.
Other older organizations, such as Davidson Dharma, Davidson College Libertarians, and Health Justice Committee, continue to regularly host virtual meetings where all are welcome in order to foster that sense of community.
Further, Planned Parenthood Generation Action (PPGA) is launching a new virtual initiative, the Peer Sex Education Program, where they have eight trained peer sexual health educators who are able to give presentations to better educate students about sexual health. They also continue to keep Wendy, the sexual wellness vending machine in Union, stocked with essential items.
Other groups are mixing virtual events with small in-person gatherings to preserve a sense of normalcy. The Jewish Student Union (JSU) hosts both virtual Shabbat dinners and meetings with the club as well as some in-person, socially distant Shabbat dinners on Chambers lawn. All events are open to the entire community, and this semester, they hope to continue Shabbat dinners, host an outdoor movie night, have their annual Passover celebration (hopefully in-person in a tent with small groups), and hold a virtual Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The Davidson Delilahs, an a cappella group, have been rehearsing socially distanced outside in small groups of three to four people. Instead of preparing for performances, they have been primarily focused on learning senior solos during COVID, which they hope to eventually record. They are also excited to hold virtual auditions this semester.
“We’re hoping that by releasing or performing music in some way this semester, we will be able to bring the Davidson community some distraction and joy!” said Michelle Silver ‘22, Co-President of the Delilahs.
All club leaders I talked with echoed Silver’s hopes for the semester. In small ways, Davidson organizations hope to bring happiness and a sense of community to campus during this pandemic, and all are working through the accompanying challenges in order to continue educating, supporting, and encouraging both students and the larger Davidson community.