North Texas Daily

Campus involvement is more important than ever

Campus involvement is more important than ever

Campus involvement is more important than ever
November 04
16:00 2020

As a first-year transfer student, I questioned joining any organizations in the era of COVID-19. I wondered if I could really forge any true friendships through Zoom meetings and GroupMe chats. With the end of the fall semester approaching fast, I’ve realized the importance of finding a sense of community on campus as I navigate through the uncertainty of the pandemic.

One of the most effective ways to slow the spread of COVID-19 is to practice social distancing. For adults in the workforce, that typically means working from home while some grade school students participate in distance learning. But for college students, social distancing and COVID-19 protocols have ruined the very structure of college life.

Before the pandemic, many college students already struggled with feeling isolated. In a 2017 American College Health Association study, 64 percent of the 48,000 college students interviewed reported feeling extremely lonely, with 12 percent legitimately considered suicide. Only 19 percent of college students reported never experiencing feelings of loneliness, according to the same survey. 

The pandemic has only exacerbated feelings of loneliness and social isolation. Campus involvement is necessary in order to combat the consequences of longtime exposure to social isolation. Increased levels of anxiety, depression and stress can lead to a lifelong battle with mental health issues.

One of the main ways for college students to combat loneliness, homesickness and feelings of isolation is through socialization. For some that meant hitting the gym with friends, getting drinks on Fry street or networking within a professional organization. But the pandemic has made it increasingly difficult to do so and many students do not feel safe participating in their regular social habits, or they are struggling with Zoom fatigue.

UNT, like many other institutions, has restricted all university-sanctioned student organizations and social gatherings to a virtual format. The university made the decision to do their part in slowing the spread of the virus and to encourage students to do the same. It is necessary but it has made students, especially freshmen, and transfer students timid to get involved on campus. 

All students are feeling the effects of the lack of face-to-face interaction. But most upperclassmen and students who did not transfer to UNT during the pandemic have already formed a solid community of friends. COVID-19 has robbed students of getting involved in a traditional manner, but just because socializing looks starkly different than it did eight months ago does not mean it is not necessary. Shying away from the campus’ virtual events inadvertently ices out students who are new to the university and Denton.

There is no end in sight to the pandemic and the sometimes lonesome social distancing enforcements are here to stay. I do not say that to fearmonger, but as a reminder that campus life will not return to its former state anytime soon. There is no point in resisting the new normal. It is imperative the student body does its part to embrace remote events. Doing so will allow new students to truly integrate themselves as a member of the university’s community.

If campus involvement dies out during the pandemic, it could be detrimental to the university’s community once social distancing protocols are eventually lifted. UNT has a robust, diverse student population with countless organizations. Lack of participation can cause many of those organizations to become inactive and defunct. Without a variety of student organizations, the university could become the stereotypical lonesome, lifeless commuter school.

The pandemic is here to stay for the unforeseeable future. However, instead of wallowing in a constant state of despair, students should use this time to reflect. Personally, I have realized just how much I took the little things in life for granted. If campus life ever does go back to normal, I will think twice before sleeping through an organization meeting and skipping out on plans to binge-watch Netflix.

It is important to embrace the moment we are in and learn from it the best we can instead of constantly wishing campus life would go back to how it was before the pandemic. That particular mindset will only cause us to miss out on the unique opportunity we have to support each other.

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

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Rhema Joy Bell

Rhema Joy Bell

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