Balancing fun and safety during the pandemic


Heather Hayton

Madison Burkhardt and Jillian Morrison braving the cold to serve coffee and donuts.

When people think of college, what comes to mind aren’t classes but the relationships, activities and shenanigans that happen outside of the classroom. However, the pandemic has deemed many staples of the college experience unsafe.

Students at Guilford College are used to participating in events like karaoke and bingo, but those are no longer plausible as the pandemic rages on around us. However, the Office of Student Leadership and Engagement (OSLE) isn’t giving up on providing safe and fun activities for the student body.

The OSLE is still hosting a myriad of events for Guilford students, including a poetry slam, numerous Netflix watch parties, Instagram stories and live videos, trivia and an Among Us tournament. In the weekly “What’s the G?” email from Friday, Jan. 29, they even posted a list of 50 Things To Do in Phase II in response to the one-week extension of schoolwide quarantine.

 The list, 50 Things To Do in Phase II, mentions a wide range of activities to do in and out of the dorm room. Feeling trapped inside? Go for a walk in the Guilford woods. Feeling stifled and tired of your room? Clean and reorganize to make it feel fresh and new. Down in the dumps? Create a quote wall with positive messages. Feeling crummy after sitting at your desk or in your bed all day? Do a workout in your dorm. The list is just one of the ways in which the OSLE promotes safety and fun during the pandemic.

The OSLE is the main organization on campus for student event planning and campus involvement. OSLE interns are the driving force behind programming and opportunities for everyone on campus to enjoy. Despite the numerous restrictions put in place to control the spread of COVID-19, the OSLE doesn’t waver in its mission to plan and create engaging events for students.

OSLE graduate assistant Dre’ Jackson affirms the center’s mission to engage with students all over campus, even in the midst of a pandemic. Although keeping the balance between safe and fun events is a new challenge, Jackson and the rest of the OSLE interns are not giving up. 

There are many more stipulations that we have to consider when planning big and/or small events,” Jackson said. “It takes a high level of dedication and commitment to keeping everyone safe while also offering fun event ideas.”   

Jackson also praised the dedication and innovation the OSLE interns have shown this year in planning and implementing their numerous events.

The planning process of events now requires a high level of creativity during the brainstorming process because it is much harder to virtually engage students through campus activities and events,” Jackson said, going on to talk about how to ensure that the fun doesn’t stop just because the pandemic is still raging on.

The OSLE isn’t the only organization on campus that recognizes the need for continuation of programming. Heather Hayton, director of the Honors Program, also got involved in event planning to keep her students engaged and connected.

“Some in our (Guilford) community have COVID, and many are struggling with sadness, lack of motivation, anger, frustration,” Hayton said. “In this awful week, awful month, awful year, I want you to know that I see you continuing, trying, working, despite all the craziness and chaos. You are juggling a lot, and it feels overwhelming.” Hayton admitted that she was feeling some of those same emotions. 

Her reasoning for continuing event planning and giving ample opportunities for students to get involved outside the classroom was that “we just want to make sure you can relax for a bit and be happy—and we want to practice being a better and more caring community.” 

Hayton put her words to action, creating a virtual board game night, a team-based competition, a Bob Ross Painting Night and more. Hayton and several Honors students were also there to support the student body when everyone had to get tested for COVID-19, passing out coffee and donuts to those leaving the testing site.

Not everyone on campus is excited about or up to date on campus events, but still manage to stay engaged. Sophomore Alaina Betz is not one to go to events, virtual or otherwise, but still finds fun and safe ways to stay sane. She goes for walks, listens to music and creates art to pass the time and ward away boredom.

When asked why the OSLE events don’t excite her, Betz stated that she was  “overwhelmed by (her) screen time and homework,” explaining how events sometimes just felt like more time on screen. She also said that going to campus events without her friends beside her just reminded her of everything she was sacrificing to stay healthy. 

Even with less campus involvement, OSLE intern Taron Lilly agrees that continuing to put on events for people is difficult but necessary work. 

Events are important to help people get out of their own heads,” Lilly explained, emphasizing how spending so much time in a room can negatively affect a person’s mental health. Events provide an escape from the uniformity of quarantine to meet new people and do something else besides homework and sleeping.

Even though all of their events are currently online, Lilly commented on the popularity of some of the OSLE’s virtual events. Pre-pandemic, they never thought about virtual events, preferring in-person events, as that was the norm. However, Lilly discussed the unexpected popularity of their Instagram live videos and gaming tournaments, suggesting that some virtual activities might stick around even after the pandemic calms down.

Even though things seem bleak with quarantine dragging on and COVID-19 cases rising, there are still many people on campus working to create fun and safe activities for all to enjoy. Jackson reminds everyone to read ‘What’s the G?’ and attend events. Even in the midst of a pandemic, he encourages students to not short their college experience by sitting out on the fun.