An Inside Look at Brockport’s New Normal: Student Activities Staying Active
Despite COVID-19's best effort to shut the fun down, clubs and organizations continue to offer reimagined opportunities for student engagement.
It’s New York fall, which normally means flag football intramural leagues are up and running.
But COVID-19 guidelines put a stop to games.
SUNY Brockport’s Coordinator of Intramural and Club Sports Dylan Hill and students on the Campus Recreation team, Adam Lasal, Abiel Payano, Max Riley, and Courtney Sherwin, worked to find alternatives. Brockport implemented new state guidelines, dropped many recreational team sports, and created more opportunities for students to participate individually in recreation three nights a week.
Cornhole, ping pong, esports, and punt-pass-kick are the standouts this semester.
"It’s fun. It’s something to do with so much closed down," said graduate student Cameron Dony. "It’s not super competitive, but it still feels official because there are scorekeepers and referees."
Dony has participated in intramural sports ever since he started college. This past session, he played ping pong.
"It’s a great way to meet people and especially during COVID, when there are not a lot of ways to be active," said Dony. He said the worst part is that more students aren't taking advantage.
"We’ve seen our numbers decrease. Students want flag football," said Hill. But on the flip side, "We’re able to engage interested students, and we're doing everything we can."
That includes hosting free special events on Thursdays. From 9 to 11 pm, students are invited to meet new people and socialize while playing lawn games like ladder ball, cornhole, or spike ball.
"Come show off your basketball skills along with your best Halloween costume! Sign up using the link in our bio! 🏀" pic.twitter.com/odFEXJVclE— Bport Intramural & Club Sports (@bportsportsprog) October 26, 2020
The Campus Recreation staff hopes more students participate in the next six-week session of intramural sports, which will feature kickball, Wiffle ball, and KanJam. According to Hill, involvement in campus activities "goes a long way for mental health and overall success of students." He encourages students to engage in something that they care about, whether virtually or in person.
As chair of the Club Sports Executive Committee, senior Jacob Ziegler is hyper-engaged in recreational athletics on campus. For the past four years, he’s participated in volleyball, indoor and outdoor soccer, and five-on-five basketball. Ziegler picked up Ultimate Frisbee his freshman year, and it's now one of his favorite sports to play. Last year, he was the club's president. Now, he’s working as an officer to get the club up and running for spring.
Club Sports officers at Brockport have been required to submit proposals about operating during the pandemic to ensure adequate health and safety measures are in place.
"If I can help get the club going, so they can have more social interaction, then that’s the goal,” said Ziegler. And while clubs and activities around campus look different from before, Ziegler encourages other students to continue joining them. "It will be different, but it will still be enjoyable," he said.
Many club sports, like the dance team, are meeting over Zoom. However, approvals for in-person practices have begun. Women’s Rugby, Tae Kwon Do, and Esports were given the go-ahead to start in-person practices, according to Hill.
The new Esports Club now has a designated home on campus, as the Seymour College Union room B-111 was renovated to support it. According to Payano, the club’s advisor and an intramural and club sports graduate assistant, the room occupancy has shrunk to seven to support COVID guidelines. The Esports Club has about 100 members participating on the Discord platform and 18 official competitive teammates.
Many of Brockport’s gamers are still playing from home. But through intramural sports, students can try out games in person. Campus Recreation hosted the Spooky Smash on October 28, where students were encouraged to show up in their costumes and play Super Smash Bros.
"Esports at Brockport is a platform that allows students to engage during a time of limitations, and it is also an opportunity to be in a team atmosphere," said Payano.
Greek Life Expands During Fall Semester
Greek Life at SUNY Brockport has picked up new members during a time when students are looking for social interaction.
About 100 students belong to fraternities and sororities on campus. This semester, Greek Life welcomed in almost a quarter of its total membership, with 24 new members across three groups.
Amy McNulty, student organization coordinator and fraternity and sorority life advisor, said she’s been impressed with Greek Life engagement. She thought COVID would cause the organizations to struggle more than they have.
One fraternity and two sororities hosted fall recruitment. McNulty said recruitments are not typical in the fall semester, but this year, they had the capacity to take new members.
Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity welcomed five new members. Delta Phi Epsilon Sorority welcomed seven. And Phi Sigma Sigma Sorority welcomed 12.
Danielle Benedetto, a senior and president of Phi Sigma Sigma, said she absolutely was not expecting to host fall recruitment or reach a record high of 42 members.
"It was a complete shock to everyone in the whole chapter," Benedetto said. It took two full days for leadership to plan out two weeks of virtual recruitment events.
Senior Tracy Dowler is the new member educator of Delta Phi Epsilon.
"We got seven new girls, which is awesome. The hardest part is that everything has to be online. I can't do anything in person with them," Dowler said.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the group meets over Zoom to get through material. Then on Fridays, they get to know each other through virtual events, such as watching movies and playing games.
Sophomore Mairead Grennan is one of the seven new members and a transfer student. She didn’t know many Brockport students before joining Delta Phi Epsilon. But now, she’s part of a group of about 30 welcoming new friends.
This sisterhood has been able to get together in person for two community service events. On October 25, they took to the streets in groups of three to “Beautify Brockport” by picking up trash around town. On October 28, they raised awareness for Anorexia Nervosa and other eating disorders at an event in the Union.
Over at Phi Sigma Sigma, events are mainly virtual, including “sister dates” where new members are paired with active sisters to talk, Disney+ watch parties, and game nights. But the sorority also encouraged its members to sign up for campus intramural sports to be together in person.
To help build new connections, the Inter-Greek Council hosted a virtual speed networking event, "Meet a New Brockport Friend."
Holding onto traditions is still as important as ever for Greek Life.
"I’m trying to keep as many things as I can," Dowler said. In Delta Phi Epsilon, each pledge class makes a scrapbook. This semester, Dowler asked each sister to make one page, and she plans to put it all together.
Neither sorority hosted an in-person Big Little Reveal, but technology did the trick.
Current members of Delta Phi Epsilon covered then uncovered their webcams or dropped a blanket to reveal themselves to their new members through the screen. "They got really creative about it," Dowler said.
Phi Sigma Sigma turned to TikTok for their Big Little Reveal. On October 27, videos welcoming each of the new members were posted to the sorority's account. The new members were encouraged to "duet" the video and react.
"It really got the entire chapter involved, which was good to see," Benedetto said. "One of the best Big Little Reveals I've ever seen, which is exciting." Afterward, they all hopped on Zoom to be given their Greek name, another Brockport Phi Sigma Sigma tradition.
Despite their success operating virtually, both sororities are anxiously awaiting the time when chapter meetings can be in person again, like Sunday nights with their sisters.
BSG Finds Success With Short-Term Planning
Brockport Student Government (BSG) throws major student events on campus. They have their hand in all staple traditions, like Spirit Week and Eagle Day and smaller events in between.
According to BSG Activities Director Sarah Martelle, a senior, the events are planned months in advance, and most planning is done before the summer. But with the uncertainty of COVID’s impact on campus from month to month, her approach has shifted to short-term planning with lots of flexibility.
BSG started out the fall semester hosting grocery bingo and virtual trivia nights, but she started to get the sense that students were bored of it.
"I think that people are so used to virtual stuff now that they’re craving something to do that’s not sitting at their computer," said Martelle.
BSG and the Office of College Communications recently collected results of a survey which found that students on campus want more in-person events, even if they’re small. "Being able to give students that in-person feel, even if it’s not the same types of events that we would’ve been doing, I think is super important to keep students engaged. And it helps a lot with their mental health," said Martelle.
In response, BSG started packaging "takeaway boxes." Students are invited to the Union to pick up goodies, like crafting supplies, candy, and other swag bags.
Then on October 24, Brocktoberfest was hosted in the SERC. During various time slots, students could enter to play giant corn hole, use a photo booth, build a monster, or paint pumpkins.
"It’s very different from our standpoint," she said about the occupancy restrictions. "It was weird seeing people filter in and out, but it was definitely a good event."
Following that success, Martelle said BSG is planning to try to do as much in-person programming as possible. Brocktoberfest was a test run of what events like Eagle Day or Snow Day could be like this year.
Planning student activities during COVID times is taking more creativity than ever. "Over all, it's going to make student leaders work a little harder, and I think that’s a good thing," said BSG President Alex Leonty.
"We have to roll with the punches and plan based on what students want," Martelle said.