By Sohan Gade ’23 (he/him), Staff Writer

When Davidson announced its decision to return residential students this fall, classes weren’t the only thing that had to adapt to a new format.

For student organizations this news came with extra challenges as well.The COVID-19 regulations restricted gatherings and in-person events for the foreseeable future. The usual first-year traditions were also cancelled. “A lot of the events that Union Board (UB) is known for have either been vastly modified or may not happen this year,” Union Board President Manny Abiad ’21 said.

Even with the restrictions in place, Abiad remains hopeful that Union Board and other student organizations will be able to serve the Davidson community. “We are still very optimistic, and our board members continually bring many great, innovative ideas to the table!” Abiad said.

Micaela Kurtz ’21, Union Board Vice President, attributed much of Union Board’s success to the board members. “Our board members are being thoughtful and creative as we organize events this semester. We are learning day by day what works and what doesn’t,” Kurtz said.

Kurtz and Abiad also explained that digital communication allowed them to adapt and modify their traditional programming. “We only have virtual board meetings and are very cognizant of public health and safety as we create events,” said Abiad.

Beginning college during the pandemic has made community building challenging for the Davidson Class of 2024. Without common gathering spaces such as lounges and traditions such as flickerball, the first-year class had to adapt. Union Board has seen this as an opportunity to connect the student body.

In engaging with the first year class, Kurtz expressed concerns about accessibility and being able to reach first years. “This is one of the biggest challenges since they don’t always know where to find us, what we do, or who we are,” Kurtz said. Nevertheless, UB has planned several events for first-years, like a “freshmen meet and greet,” Laura Bullock ’23, the Union Board Concert Chair, mentioned. 

Due to the shortened spring semester, there was no Frolics event in 2020. The COVID-19 restrictions may prevent a 2021 Frolics as well. Bullock explained that large Spring events, such as Frolics are “entirely dependent on where we are with the virus, so we don’t have much of an idea yet.”

In terms of current programming, the UB has modified traditional programming methods to make them engaging and safe. Bullock listed out several activities that she and other board members helped to plan this semester. “We have tried to engage people by offering a variety of events that appeal to people’s different interests, from spin bikes, to painting, to Among Us,” said Bullock.

Another example of how UB has adapted their outreach is through speaker events. In recent years, Davidson has enjoyed several well-respected speakers, like Dr. Ibram Kendi, Bryan Stevenson, and Raymond Santana, among others. 

Speakership Chair Annie Kaplan ’23 explained that online speaker events can be particularly powerful. “The quality of the speaker series isn’t really degraded that much by the shift to the online platform,” Kaplan said.

Kaplan led efforts to bring another impactful speaker to the Davidson community and succeeded in signing a contract with Patrisse Cullors, one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement. This is especially relevant following a summer characterized by uprisings for racial justice.

Despite all of the challenges that UB is facing this year, Abiad remained confident in his ability to provide programs to the Davidson community. “We’re currently working on ways to get more engaged, so definitely be on the lookout on our social media and our newsletter!” Abiad said.