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Student groups adjust to Duke's new gathering limits, recent COVID-19 spike as events kick off

<p>Student group leaders have been finding ways to allow everyone to participate safely in in-person events after Duke released new COVID-19 guidelines in late August.</p>

Student group leaders have been finding ways to allow everyone to participate safely in in-person events after Duke released new COVID-19 guidelines in late August.

While student groups are planning their first meetings of the year, Duke’s COVID-19 guidelines are ever-changing, resulting in clubs navigating a variety of meeting formats. 

Women’s club volleyball asked players to only attend practice after attending large events if they test negative.

“If you plan to attend large, unmasked gatherings this weekend or at any time this semester, we ask that you stay home and do not attend practice unless you have tested negative between the event and practice,” wrote senior Celina Zhou, the club’s president, in an Aug. 28 email to the team. 

Zhou also encouraged members who had recent contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 to not attend practice until testing negative. 

Within two hours of the University’s Aug. 30 COVID-19 update, Zhou sent a follow-up email to the team regarding alterations to the practice policy. The update instructed clubs to not host social gatherings with more than 50 people.

The captains sent a message to the GroupMe, and the first 50 people to like the message would be invited to practice.  

“We will be capping attendance at 50 people, a.k.a. the first 50 people to like the message,” Zhou wrote. “If you aren’t in the first group of 50, we are very sorry, but please do not come to practice.” 

In an email to The Chronicle, Zhou explained that the first-come-first-serve method was the most efficient way to continue practices, given the 50-person limit. 

“Limiting the number of players at practice was definitely not an ideal situation, as club is a very inclusive environment, and we want everyone who wants to play to have that opportunity. We really strive to make club as drama/toxic free as possible, especially since so many of us came from high school and club teams that were highly competitive with bad environments,” Zhou wrote. “On the other hand, we never could have anticipated over 50 people being interested—we usually only have 30 or so girls maximum, and so there was no other option for us at this time.”

Senior Christina Wang, president of Duke Student Government, explained that the upcoming Senate meetings will be in-person with a virtual option, due to the Senate body having less than 50 members currently. Wang noted they will “re-evaluate this decision when [they] get new members and inevitably exceed the 50-person indoor gathering limit.”

“This structure was chosen by the executive board with members' personal preferences for physical and mental safety and health in mind,” Wang wrote. “We believe that most members of DSG currently prefer in-person events that are socially distanced!” 

Zhou also noted how despite wanting everyone to participate, the decisions were made to protect everyone’s safety.

“We are implementing these changes not to exclude anyone from practice, but to ensure we are within Duke guidelines that allow our club to run. We want everyone who wants to play to have that opportunity; however, given the global pandemic, this is a little harder to do,” Zhou wrote. 

Pancakes for Parkinson’s is a student group that hosts events in order to raise money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation to support Parkinson's research. Thereby, in-person events are important for the success of the club. 

Sophomore Emma Brennan, who serves on the Pancakes for Parkinson’s executive team, explained that they haven’t hosted any general body events yet, but they plan to do so in the future.  

“We’re hoping to see how guidelines change after this two-week period of increased restrictions,” Brennan said. “We’re planning to do events in-person as long as they can be safe and follow Covid guidelines.”

Brennan explained that they are currently offering a hybrid format for planning meetings but that the group hopes to be able to host in-person social events where members in the club bring their friends. 


Madeleine Berger

Madeleine Berger is a Trinity sophomore and a university news editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.

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