Virtual community

Union limits capacity and activities, strives to create virtual community – The Daily Utah Chronicle

Student union cuts events and budget as covid continues

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the entire functionality and purpose of the A. Ray Olpin Student Union, with top-down changes being made to keep the community center open.

According to the Union’s website, it’s a place “where parties and events draw thousands” and “where university and local communities come together.”

That goal, however, had to change due to the pandemic, with all spaces reduced to half capacity and limits of 20 students, faculty or staff allowed in some rooms.

Nearly all in-person events have been moved online, including U Welcome Event Weeks, but Union administrators and other Union organizations plan to stay involved with the student community. as health restrictions allow.

“Our [Student Union] mission and purpose is to create community and bring people together. We had an interesting shift in our mindset because we had to literally separate people physically, but try to bring people together in other ways,” said Union Deputy Marketing Director Jeremy Wilkerson.

The Union has seen a sharp reduction in student traffic, with the number of students actually going to the recreation area or food courts compared to the summer semester.

Second-year recreation assistant Tyler Birchenough said their main goal was to be there for students and people on campus to take time to unwind from the stresses of school.

“With COVID and all the regulatory stuff, a lot of people don’t like wearing masks, there’s been so many issues and complications, and people just stop showing up to Union,” said Birchenough.

Along with ASUU and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority, UPC is a primary group within the Union that engages in student activities on campus. Led this year by junior Ben Chenot, the UPC team had to adapt its operation in order to follow coronavirus guidelines while maintaining its relationship with the campus community.

“That has changed significantly because we’re completely focused on event scheduling and we’ve had to make more than half of our events virtual,” Chenot said. “It’s completely new ground for us, so we’re kind of exploring creative ways to have the same community-building aspect of our normal programming on a virtual platform and trying to keep the value of those events going. .”

The UPC plans to do as many events as they can move online, such as bingo night, however, some events are difficult for them to move online. The Union Scholarship Celebration, which raised more than $200,000 last year for need-based scholarships, was an event that was to be held virtually.

“So I think that’s one of the biggest things that every time you have a virtual event, it’s really not the same socially. You don’t have the benefit of being able to work together as much as we can transition virtually, but obviously a lot is lost,” Chenot said.

While the Union generates money by selling space, advertisements, and receives funds through facility fees that students pay, the Union, along with other affiliated organizations, have seen their budgets decline due to limited use, forcing them to make cuts in several areas. . The Crimson View restaurant and the Union U-market have both closed until next semester.

“Over the summer a lot of people either canceled ad packages or changed them to be a bit smaller. Everyone was just making sure their budgets, we were going to stay on track,” Wilkerson said. “We’ve just started looking at our budget and figuring out exactly what we can get off the ground, and ultimately we’ve prioritized keeping as many jobs as possible.”

The Union employs many student jobs through service offices, recreation areas, and building managers, as well as some full-time staff. While jobs have been retained, there have been cuts in other budget areas.

“There have been a lot of pay cuts for staff across campus, but because of that, as far as one worker is concerned and as far as other workers are concerned, we cannot get raises at this time. simply because we don’t. We don’t have the funding coming into the university, and I would say that’s an effect caused by COVID but it’s kind of separate and affects us in a different way,” Birchenough said.

Lack of funding has also resulted in understaffing in some positions and made it more difficult to maintain equipment such as bowling alley lanes or other maintenance areas.

“The University is going to do what it has to do to keep the Union running, and by doing so, we can stay open and I can still have a job that I’m very grateful for.” A lot of people don’t have that opportunity,” Birchenough said. “Obviously it’s a bit frustrating and a bit scary, but that’s the world we live in right now.”

A full list of the Union’s coronavirus safety measures and restrictions can be found on their website here.

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