When signing up for committee roles this year, I knew we would be taking on a challenge after COVID-19 brought last year to a sharp end. Our predecessors (including this paper’s Editor-in-Chief) advised us remarkably well during handover. But there is no rule book on how to run a political – or indeed any society during a pandemic. I turned to our committee to ask what plans for this coming year look like, and they responded impressively.
As with most societies, online community building has been even more important for us as we’ve been able to hold socials and engage with new UEA students via digitised formats. As a large academic society with members from across a range of courses, it’s important they get a chance to make friends before arriving, as we did. Our committee agrees this is likely to continue into the new year; Serene (union council rep) pointed out we need “to make sure PolSoc remains inclusive to everyone in times like this […] I worry our university will alienate immunocompromised students if we don’t.”
We’re holding out hope we can deliver some of the usual stuff like our legendary bar crawls or international trips, but until then we’re adjusting and doing everything we can to give everyone the best possible experience.
The reality of life returning to ‘normal’ for people at different times is underpinning most of what we do, be it on both social and academic levels. We usually run additional academic events throughout the year which we will now look to deliver online. Strangely enough this may not be a bad thing, as Josh (academic officer) pointed out they enable us to “get speakers who we might have not been able to get otherwise due to logistical challenges, such as finding times convenient for speakers and students”.
The online model has affected how we organise ourselves as a society. Holly observed “we can still run our memberships through the SU website and we can keep people updated with social media”, exactly what we were doing pre-virus. However, President Tilly said “there is still a concern that membership this year may be lower”, a challenge I’d imagine most groups are facing right now.
The uncertainty about the coming year is a common factor among both new and existing students, and not something easily rectified. Ross (publicity officer) summed this up by saying the role of our society for this year will be “to help each other through this tough time […] and all in all help spread positive vibes”.
I feel lucky to be heading into the unknown with such a lovely team. Clearly every society faces challenges unforeseen this time last year, requiring our support more than ever before. To students expressing concern about this year, please don’t let Covid-19 prevent you from joining a society.