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How Social Distancing Guidelines Will Impact Student Societies Next Semester.

Covid-19 restrictions and physical distancing bring particular difficulties for UCD societies and has compelled them to change the way they host social events. The College Tribune has contacted various societies to ask how they will modify their activities to comply with new regulations.

The Societies Council is collaborating with the management of the Student Centre to find the safest way to proceed with events. The management of the Student Centre has been in contact with a number of societies regarding the guidelines that may be in place come September. According to a number of societies that spoke to The College Tribune, that under the current guidelines from the Student Centre, the Fitzgerald Chamber can only hold 10-12 people but that this will hopefully increase to 30-40. The Astra Hall which ordinarily houses 800 students will now hold roughly 60 people. Booked rooms can only be reserved for two hours and there must be a 30-minute gap between bookings for the room to be thoroughly cleaned. It is understood students may also need to register in advance to attend events and that these guidelines are a starting point for the current set of physical distancing regulations and may be relaxed as time goes on.

The social aspect of college life is arguably as important as academic studies and college societies provide the perfect backdrop for students to connect. However, in post-pandemic society, students will be required to become innovative in the way they create social spaces. Put simply, will students be able to make friends on campus next September or will they be reduced to connecting on digital platforms?

Most societies are still unsure of how their social calendar will look next year and are in the process of discussing possible amendments to events. Among these are ArtsSoc and Dramsoc, but both are dedicated to working through social media in an attempt to bring their usual summer activities online. 

FoodSoc is optimistic that they can return to some form of normality come September, with their spokesperson saying: “Societies will be so important post-COVID-19, as students starved of socialising arrive on campus. It is our job to feed them (literally and figuratively).” The society plans to revive their guest restaurant series with social distancing and proper hygiene measures but has yet to confirm the logistics with UCD. Until then, they will focus on their online presence and continue posting the cooking tutorials which they started during the lockdown. FoodSoc has also created a new website containing a blog for student deals, recipes and event information. Next year the society will refrain from hosting large gatherings but assure us that people will still get their free food. What more could you want?

LawSoc stated that their committee is working hard to plan events as normal and are “very optimistic that we will be able to have a full year in spite of any social distancing requirements that may be in place for this year.” The society is in regular contact with the Student Centre, the hub for their activities, and are committed to operating at as high a level as possible. They are currently planning a number of events over the summer as many of their events were cut short due to the closure of the university. Their first event, a pub quiz collaboration with the Music Society, will take place this Saturday (June 20th).  

LitSoc has also suggested moving online next year as many of their events, such as creative writing workshops and coffee mornings, can be held over video conferencing platforms such as Zoom. They also noted the success of their Alumni Book Club with author Dave Rudden which was held through video conferencing and propose that online events will be more successful than physical ones as it will be easier to include those who live far from campus. 

Cumann Gaelach is also focusing on creating social media content for students of all levels from “Gaeilge briste to Gaeilge cliste” and acknowledge how fortunate they are to be able to promote the Irish language and culture online. However, there is major disappointment surrounding the cancellation of ‘Oireachtas na Samhna’, a week-long festival celebrating the Irish Language which is a highlight of the year for the society. Despite missing out on a much-anticipated trip to Galway, Cumann Gaelach is excited to continue ‘Ciorcal Cainte’ in the Seomra Caidrimh (B214, Newman Building) next year. A spokesperson stated: “As soon as we can safely have a night out there will be many nights spent in Conradh na Gaeilge dancing on tables, but until then, keeping everyone slán agus folláin will be our priority.”

MusicSoc said that they “will be holding events in real life as much as possible but this will be supplemented in no small part by virtual events too.” The society has stated that they will adapt to COVID restrictions by reducing the number of people at events. They explained that a ‘booking’ system will be put in place to enforce this and students will need to ‘hold’ their space in advance. The society believes this to be the fairest and most efficient way for events to run. They recognise that this system may not work perfectly but are hopeful that students will respect their efforts.

Although students can no longer float into the Student Centre and aimlessly take part in a society event, their social calendar will not be empty. The responses The College Tribune received from societies were overwhelmingly positive. It is clear that despite physical distancing there will still be a sense of community on the UCD campus next year.

The College Tribune reached out to the Societies Council to ask whether there would still be a Freshers Week next year but did not receive comment by the time of publishing.

Emma Hanrahan – Reporter

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