One of the biggest changes for students on campus this semester is both the postponement of sports and changes regarding in-person gatherings for student organizations. A moratorium on in-person gatherings for student organizations has since been lifted, and sports teams have been allowed to practice, but some uncertainty remains.
This past July, the announcement of the postponement of fall sporting events left many unsure of what an in-person campus experience would look like. Athletic Director Marty Scarano said, “COVID has had an enormous effect on the athletics dept. The postponement of our competition was an awful emotional event for all of us but mostly the student-athletes. Obviously we are all living in stressful, uncertain times and the month of July was very, very difficult when these decisions were being made… I am so proud of our dept since then though. We have a very solid COVID mitigation plan, strict protocols and universal adherence from all the staff, coaches and athletes… So far, so good!”
Scarano also added, “The crisis has devastated the budget. Most of our revenue has dried up and even though we aren’t competing we have significant overhead costs that need to be paid such as compensations for staff and coaches, scholarships for the athletes and institutional costs. We are undergoing a very thorough institutional review that is analyzing everything about UNH athletics and will ascertain how we go forward.”
As for practicing, teams are allowed to practice but under specific protocols. The UNH field house is under a lockdown, and athletes are to pass through security, masks are required at all times, locker rooms are closed and gatherings are small and socially distanced.
When asked about the spring season, Scarano responded, “The entire fall sport season is postponed, it is our hope that all can and will play an abbreviated season in the spring. Our respective leagues are having intensive meetings between AD’s and the commissioners to strategize how to play this spring. We are hopeful and planning to play both basketball and hockey this semester…..possibly starting by mid-November.”
Scarano explained students are simply happy with being on campus versus being fully remote. He also said he wants this semester to be as normal as possible for the athletes, so they can continue engaging with each other while also working on life skills, “…In that regard we are using this time to really work with them on social justice issues…we have a full slate of programs to address BLM, register to vote initiatives, civic minded events etc.”
The NCAA has granted every student athlete another year of eligibility, but it is up to the athletes if they want to go on for their fifth or sixth years.
With sporting events being cancelled, students have turned to clubs and organizations to socialize with their peers and engage with university activities. Clubs and organizations have also been significantly impacted due to COVID-19 protocols. In the spring semester, clubs and organizations on campus had been moved online for virtual meetings until further notice.
On Friday Sept. 18, Senior Vice Provost for Student Life Ken Holmes announced via email that the moratorium placed on in-person student organization meetings at the beginning of the semester had since been lifted with restrictions. While some student organizations have begun to meet in-person this week, many larger groups remain online to reduce the risk of being infected with COVID-19. This also allows students who have stayed home this semester to have access to the meetings. Students are still allowed to create new clubs on campus, however the process has been delayed.
When asked if planning for this semester in regards to cubs and organization meetings, Executive Director of Student Engagement and Development Stacey Hall responded, “In preparation for fall semester, most rooms in the MUB were initially designated for academic classes. Currently, eight of the meeting and event spaces are dedicated to academic classes. As a result, two large tents were rented to provide space for student organizations to meet. The Wild E Cat tent (Great Hall Lawn) and Gnarlz Tent (Scott Hall Lawn) are now available for student organization reservations using the same process as MUB room reservations.”
Hall also said, “I appreciate the efforts that student organization leaders have taken to comply with UNH’s COVID guidelines. This leadership will help us be successful at navigating this difficult time. Several students have truly stepped up to this challenge, which is inspiring. One recommendation, I would like to share. Many student leaders are seeking new strategies to recruit new members. I encourage student organizations to post upcoming meetings and events in Wildcat Link. Then students interested in learning more about an organization can find information about participating in meetings and how to join.”