This year, the Student Life Office scrapped the annual in-person club fair, instead moving to a Virtual Activities Fair where student organizations courted first-years over Zoom.
In preparation for the event, much of the advertising for clubs took place over Facebook, with club board members posting in Haverford’s class groups, as well as on Haverford Engage, an interface for signing up for clubs and scheduling events.
The Virtual Activities Fair took place on Thursday, September 18 from 8 p.m to 10 p.m. On the virtual platform, there was a lot of idle time and not the usual chatter and excitement of the in-person club fair.
However, some clubs saw an unprecedented increase in participation. The Haverford Best Buddies Club had their first formal meeting on Sunday, September 20, and had over 30 participants compared to the 15 members per meeting last year. The club was formed in the spring of 2019, after evolving from the Spectrum Club, which was a social group for youth on the autism spectrum.
Co-head Maya Wernick ’22 attributes the increased participation to the easier accessibility of a virtual platform and the fact that the club is more established this year.
“I think that the virtual aspect is less of a time commitment to meet physically with a buddy and the virtual platform has made it simpler for people to come consistently, which is what we ask of our members, also known as peer buddies,” Wernick said.
The club ran virtual activities over the summer, including Zumba, show-and-tell, scavenger hunts, dance parties, Halloween in July, and just chatting and hanging out.
“We had activities over the summer to give our buddies consistency and to provide community during COVID when a lot of their community that they are used to is gone,” Wernick said.
Best Buddies started planning before they knew Club Fair was happening. They wanted to have a sense of numbers of participants to coordinate with their host site who sends them buddies with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
“Best Buddies normally have a one-on-one friendship where the focus is on the friend that you’re assigned to, that you’re sitting next to, that you chat with and build a long-lasting friendship with. The Zoom platform allows us to have a larger, tight-knit community,” Wernick said.
During the Virtual Club fair they got five people, who said they were just looking around. “We were surprised how easy it was for people to click in and click out,” Wernick said.
Another club that saw an increase in participation this fall was the Haverford Archery Club. According to Ethan Weiss ’21, the head and treasurer of the club, this year in particular people are looking for stuff to do as options are slim for socially-distanced activities.
Last year they had 15 to 20 people show up over the course of the semester, six of whom were regulars. This year they had 20 to 25 people come to the activities fair.
“In one of the Haverhealth email updates where they provided suggestions for things to do socially distanced this semester, they included archery, which was really cool. That meant that we had a lot of people who were interested and our club could happen,” Weiss said.
Due to COVID restrictions, the club cannot go off-campus like they usually do to Middletown Archery. Instead, they are exploring the idea of finding a vendor who can come to campus once a week.
Despite the clubs having to deal with social distancing and organizational challenges, the increased participation in the virtual club fair hints toward a promising semester.