The members of the board of directors were settling in for their biannual proposal night, where committees pitch their new program ideas, when they were silenced by the notifications. But the joy and excitement on their faces were wiped away in an instant.
It was March 10 when the email was sent out to all Purdue students. Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue, announced in-person classes would not resume after Spring Break.
Board members were left with a plethora of questions, like how they would attract the expected attendance for the remainder of their spring semester events, whether they would have the time and ability to plan for the events for the following semester, and how their organization would overcome this enormous change.
As more and more questions popped into their minds, the board was faced with even more troubling news. It reached the section of the email that stated, “We are suspending all university-sponsored events (including those hosted by registered student organizations) involving external visitors effective March 16 through May 2.” In that moment, they knew their organization would face challenges they had never faced before.
The Purdue Student Union Board has served as the main programming board on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus since 1921. It provides more than 170 events every year, with entertainment in the fall, spring, and summer semesters. These events attempt to meet the variety of interests held by Purdue students. The board is comprised of about 100 general members, two full-time advisors and a board of directors made up of six committee directors and four executive officers.
Rather than canceling programming for the remainder of the semester, PSUB welcomed this challenge.
“We’re going virtual,” announced current PSUB president Derek Lee. “Although the COVID-19 virus has affected all of us, we want to make sure we continue to fulfill our mission by providing campus programming for students, even if that means it’s online.”
The programming board has several events planned for the remainder of the spring semester, trying to create events so every Purdue student is offered something that meets their interests. These events include virtual trivia with prizes, fun educational tutorials, live-stream performances and even interactive competitions for Purdue students, such as meme and TikTok challenges that use their social media pages.
“I absolutely love that I am still able to participate in these events and be entertained while practicing social distancing,” said Madison Savage, a student in the College of Veterinary Medicine. “If I can’t physically be at the events, I still want to be able to be active with PSUB.”
Many college students are back home, away from the independent lives they started at college. Some are struggling to reacclimate. Experts are noting the toll that social distancing is having.
“The mental health of students is at stake here,” Savage said. “PSUB is a good escape from the new pressures some students may be facing while they’re at home.”
The executive team has worked to maintain a sense of normalcy.
“We’ve transitioned our meetings to WebEx and also contacted vendors for virtual programming so that students can still stay connected in the safety of their home,” Lee said.
Meanwhile, the board of directors pushed through with proposal night as planned and heard all of the exciting ideas for the upcoming semester. They smiled as they thought of students returning to campus and being met with thrilling events they’ve never seen before.
This is certainly a hurdle, but it will not stop PSUB from doing what they set out to do: enriching the lives of Purdue students.
– Jessica Radwick, PSUB’s vice president for campus relations and a junior in the College of Liberal Arts