Leadership, Engagement & Experiential Development (LEED), formerly Student Leadership and Involvement, hosted the annual Student Involvement Fair (SIF) on Sept. 3. The event allows Hopkins students to engage with the over 400 student-run organizations and departments on campus, making it one of the school year’s largest events promoting student involvement.
Though the University initially announced plans to hold the event in person, the event was shifted online to HopkinsGroups. In an email to The News-Letter, LEED Director Calvin Smith, Jr. explained that insufficient space was the primary reason for the switch to a virtual format.
“Typically, the Student Involvement Fair is hosted in the Ralph O’Connor Recreation Center, [which] is currently under construction,” he wrote. “Despite our colleagues’ best efforts, unfortunately, the building will not be completed in time.”
Some told The News-Letter that they had grown accustomed to online events and supported this change. Sophomore Angelo Huff appreciated the ease with which he could observe the different student organizations.
“I think the virtual experience was perfect. I got to see the different organizations and also meet different people. It was definitely easier than an in-person SIF,” he said.
Others, like sophomore Diego Kaune, were disappointed by the University’s decision; with students back on campus, many expected to see more in-person events as campus life returned to normal. Kaune expressed his frustration about the virtual format in an interview with The News-Letter.
“There was not a lot of interaction,” he said. “In-person would have been much better, and there was barely any advertisement for [an online] SIF.”
For freshman Sun Moon, the virtual format made it harder to build meaningful relationships with club members, but he felt that navigating CampusGroups allowed him to explore far more clubs than he would have had the event been in person. However, he also reported experiencing technical difficulties during the event.
“Hopkins Groups crashed every 5 seconds that I tried to log on to SIF,” he wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “After some time I could browse through the clubs and show interest.”
Sophomore Zara Hamid, tournament director for the Hopkins Undergraduate Debate Council, also expressed frustration about the event website during the first hour of her recruitment shift.
“It was difficult because CampusGroups kept crashing, so we didn’t get as much interest as we were expecting,” she said in an interview with The News-Letter.
But despite those technical difficulties, Hamid said that students were still able to engage with club members, and the debate team was able to hold tryouts during their booth event as they had planned.
Senior Yasheel Pandya, a captain of Blue Jay Bhangra, noticed that conversations with students were fewer and shorter than in previous semesters in an interview with The News-Letter.
“Because we were online [last year], and that was everyone’s form of communication, people were more willing to get to know other people,” he said. “[This year] people seem to already have in-person groups, so it’s more difficult to convey information online when the in-person part is already available.”
Blue Jay Bhangra hosted an in-person event on Sept. 10 near the Breezeway to supplement their virtual recruitment. Pandya noted that it was significantly easier to hold conversations with interested students outside and in person and questioned why the University did not try to hold SIF in one of the four quads on campus.
Smith indicated that the University intends to plan several in-person events later in the semester. Smith said the University will host an in-person SIF in October once construction of the Recreation Center is complete. Additionally, LEED will be hosting a block party — which will feature several cultural and performance groups — near Homewood Apartments on Sept. 30.
Huff and Kaune both expressed excitement at the idea of an in-person SIF later in the semester.
“It would be an awesome way to meet people and truly experience a real student fair at Hopkins,” Huff said.
Student Government Association Executive Vice President Breanna Soldatelli also supported the University’s efforts, claiming that it should be feasible to hold a student involvement event within University guidelines.
“It’ll be very good for school morale, especially for new students who never got to meet the real Hopkins,” she said in an interview with The News-Letter.