Julian E.J. Sorapuru
When the COVID-19 outbreak caused USF’s campus to close, it not only changed students’ living arrangements and the way classes are taught, but also marked the cancelation or postponement of many spring events.
Gone from the spring calendar are events like the Silk Speaker Series, which would have seen “The Handmaid’s Tale” author Margaret Atwood come to the Hilltop. The Silk Speaker Series has brought an assortment of celebrities to USF’s campus in the past, such as NBA legend Magic Johnson, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, and former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice. U.S. women’s national soccer team superstar Megan Rapinoe was slated to speak at USF in March, but her event has since been postponed as well. The postponement of the Silk Speaker events marks yet another lost source of revenue for the University due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Perhaps more impactful to student life on campus, however, is the cancelation of events that were planned to be held by students and for students. To clubs, to Greek life, to even chartered student organizations; no group has remained unaffected by the cancelation of events.
The closure of campus is especially detrimental to performing arts student groups like College Players (USF’s student-run theater organization), whose work throughout the semester culminates in live performances in front of a physical audience.
“[The cancelation of the spring musical] was a really big blow to our morale because College Players as an organization has gone through so much this year,” said Lillian Froio, executive producer of the College Players, in an email. Froio cited the closure of Presentation Theater and the cancelation of College Players’ spring play before the coronavirus outbreak as other major hurdles the organization has faced this academic year.
The College Players have committed to doing radio plays, which are “kind of like dramatic podcasts,” said Froio, in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Performing arts clubs are having a really tough time right now, since doing performances virtually is not the same experience at all,” said Froio.
Cultural organizations like Kasamahan, USF’s Filipino American cultural club, have also been impacted. Kasamahan’s end-of-the-year showcase, Barrio Fiesta, had to be canceled after almost a year of planning. Throughout the year, preparation for Barrio Fiesta’s cast meant learning new languages, sewing costumes for the performance, and rehearsing cultural songs.
Despite the cancelation, Alexa David, Kasamahan’s cultural director, tried to find a silver lining. “As soon as we got the shelter in place [order], I had to write a statement to our cast. And they were very, very heartbroken,” she said. “And I always reminded them that at least we took a part out of our busy schedules to learn about our culture and to spread it […] we can do that with or without an audience.”
Currently, Kasamahan, like many other student organizations, have shifted their programming online. This means utilizing social media and Zoom in order to stay connected with their members and putting on virtual events like cultural workshops, game nights, and painting tutorials, with an emphasis on supporting other Filipino-American cultural groups during the COVID-19 crisis.
One Barrio Fiesta tradition they are attempting to transfer online typically occurs on the second night of the showcase, when the seniors “pour their hearts out” to the rest of Barrio Fiesta’s cast and impart advice and parting words on their castmates. According to David, this will be done by posting farewell videos on YouTube for other cast members to see or by having seniors express their gratitude via Zoom.
While Kasamahan has adapted to the current circumstances, planning for future events for them and every other student organization is up in the air. “We rely heavily on the resources that USF gives us, especially SLE (Student Leadership and Engagement), and having to communicate with them is a lot easier in person,” said David. “Planning for next year is kind of on a halt until we learn more about what’s going on; everything creative-wise can go on, but everything logistically is on a big hold.”