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‘As Chaotic as Ever’: Student Groups Adjust to Extracurricular Life Off-Campus

With the transition to online instruction already underway, leaders of the College's nearly 600 extracurricular offerings are also making the switch to virtual platforms to connect with their members and continue operations.
With the transition to online instruction already underway, leaders of the College's nearly 600 extracurricular offerings are also making the switch to virtual platforms to connect with their members and continue operations. By Sara Komatsu
By Sydnie M. Cobb and Declan J. Knieriem, Crimson Staff Writers

With the transition to online instruction already underway, leaders of the College’s nearly 600 extracurricular offerings are also making the switch to virtual platforms to connect with their members and continue operations.

The move online comes in the wake of University President Lawrence S. Bacow’s March 10 announcement that students must vacate their on-campus housing due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As a result, most organizations’ usual meeting spaces — like Farkas Hall and various classrooms in Sever Hall — stand empty.

At first merely a home for Harvard classes, Zoom — a video conference platform — has now become the hub of extracurricular life as well.

Nikole L. Naloy ’21, the founder and editor-in-chief of Fig. Magazine, wrote in an email that she and her production team — composed of 38 members — are working diligently to complete their next issue, scheduled for the end of May. Fig. Magazine uses its platform to explore fashion as a medium that is “deeply relevant to the understanding of our past, present, and future world,” according to Naloy.

Naloy wrote that she believes the unexpected shift to Zoom has challenged her and her team to think more creatively in developing their content.

“The quarantine has mandated a unique creative rubric we must now work with,” she wrote. “It’ll let us see the capacities of fashion to change the space and roles we are currently restricted to.”

“I’m excited by what our team will come up with during these next two weeks — we have some fun plans in the works (we’ll be bringing kiddy pools and floaties to our living rooms),” she added.

Naloy wrote that she expects the production of virtual editorials to be “as chaotic as ever,” adding that she remains “optimistic” the magazine will be able to produce its next issue as planned.

Harvard Ballet Company co-directors Ana Maria Delmar ’21 and Abbey S. Y. Pan ’22 wrote in an email that though the group’s April performance has been canceled, members still have the option to virtually participate in the company’s activities. HBC — which boasts more than 40 members — will hold weekly Tuesday classes taught by one of its members on Zoom.

Delmar and Pan also wrote that the group is already planning for future projects.

“We are awaiting more information from the performing arts/theater community at Harvard to see how shows that were supposed to perform but did not make it to the stage are to proceed next semester,” they wrote. “Once we get more information about this from theater staff, we are going to strategize about how to hopefully proceed with next semester’s performances and pick up the pieces of all the work we began this semester to create something new.”

For some student organizations, however, leaving campus has left them unable to operate.

Eric A. Tarlin ’21, music director for the a cappella group the Harvard Opportunes, said that because the Opportunes are a “collaborative” performance group, they will not be able to continue their regular activities. He added, however, that the group will hold weekly check-ins on Zoom to keep members socially connected and that they are still looking to record their annual album.

“We couldn’t continue with our activities as usual; you can’t sing together with the latency of online video chats,” he said. “So, it really ended our year early rather than changed the nature of it. At the end of the day, it cuts a year short.”

Reuben A. Stern ’20, who has served as music director for the Bach Society Orchestra — commonly known as BachSoc — for the past three years, called the loss of the semester “devastating.” They said the group has had to “essentially cease” all activities, including biweekly rehearsals and an upcoming concert.

“We are unable to continue music making together in the same way, but we may, over the coming weeks and months, figure out some sort of long distance social activities that we can take part in,” Stern said. “It takes a while to build the sort of familiarity and ease of communication that one needs to do work very well with an orchestra, and not having that sort of last hurrah, so to speak, hit me pretty hard.”

—Staff writer Sydnie M. Cobb can be reached at sydnie.cobb@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @cobbsydnie.

—Staff writer Declan J. Knieriem can be reached at declan.knieriem@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DeclanKnieriem.

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