Volunteers from the Student Growing Collaborative are unable to return to the Ohio State Student Farm. Credit: Courtesy of Rachel Kopniske

When campus closed, student organizations could have called it quits. Instead, many pressed on.

Restrictions to campus access resulted in the cancellation of student organization events, meetings and activities, causing changes for clubs across campus. However, many organizations are finding ways to continue to keep in contact with their members despite the changes.

For the Ohio State Student Farm, a 4-acre vegetable farm on West Campus operated by the Student Growing Collaborative, shutting down at the beginning of the growing season has high stakes, as the farm’s student workers are not allowed on the plot.

“It was really rough at the beginning because we were seriously just starting on events,” Rachel Kopniske, a third-year in philosophy, politics and economics and the farm’s outreach coordinator, said. “We were seeding. We were planting seeds later in the week, then it all got canceled.”

Without access to the farm, Kopniske said the collaborative had to abandon its crop plan and the seedlings already planted in its greenhouse. However, she said the club’s leaders are staying connected with members through Zoom meetings to check in and give situation updates.

“We feel like, as a farm, it’s really important to keep people updated on what’s going on,” Kopniske said. “Farm work is something that a lot of the people in our club look forward to, and it’s a part of working on the farm that really brings us together.”

Not being able to physically work on the farm has given the club an opportunity to focus on other things that are normally overlooked, Anna Baltisberger, a second-year in sustainable plant systems and the farm’s production co-lead, said. She said the club is looking into developing a 5-year crop plan and focusing on distributing educational material to give members more knowledge going into the next growing season.

When workers can return to the farm is unknown, but Kopniske said she hopes members will be able to resume work by summer. If growing during the summer is possible, the club is considering donating food instead of selling it through Community Supported Agriculture, a program typically used by the club that allows people to connect with local farms and purchase food, she said.

“CSA is how we get money, but we do feel the need, as people who are producing food in a time of need. There shouldn’t be barriers to access when everybody needs food,” she said.

While some student organizations are seeing their crops wither, others worry its performance opportunities are drying up.

With the rest of their scheduled performances canceled, members of Buckeye Standup Comedy Club, a student comedy group that hosts performances throughout the year, are on hiatus, Zack White, a second-year in physics and club president, said.

“It’s really put a hold on things just because stand-up is one of those things — you’re there to perform to people, so if you can’t do a show, there’s not really much to do,” White said.

The club has canceled all of its performances, except for its spring show, its biggest annual show that features performances from club members and a nationally touring comedian, which will now be held via the video-conferencing service Zoom free of charge, White said. New York comedian Dina Hashem is scheduled to headline the 2020 show, which will now feature additional comics from New York City and Los Angeles. The Zoom link for the April 17 show will be posted on the group’s social media.

White said not being able to perform is difficult for comedians because, without regular practice, comedic ability can deteriorate over time. However, the club is looking into the possibility of hosting a virtual show on Zoom, where audience members would be asked to keep their microphones and cameras on, so club members could still have an opportunity to perform and get feedback, he said.

“It would be completely new. There has been virtual stuff — everyone has done virtual stuff — but virtual live is a lot different,” White said. “It definitely would be a very different mentality, but I don’t necessarily think it would be a bad thing.”

White said that while the COVID-19 outbreak has inconvenienced and disappointed the club, he agrees with the university’s decision.

“It’s regrettable; no one likes it, but everyone also recognizes that in the grand scheme of things, the fact that maybe I’ll be less funny after this compared to staying safe and making sure everyone’s healthy — it’s such a small thing,” White said.

While many student organizations have had to shut down activities, Ohio State’s Discord Club, a club that uses online text, voice and video chat server Discord to connect students from across campus, is able to continue with relatively moderate changes, Ian Hout, a fourth-year in animal sciences and club president, said.

Hout said the club server offers a stress-free space for students to chat, meet people from different academic programs, stream TV shows and schedule in-person meet-ups with one another. He said that although the latter cannot exactly be accomplished right now, the server still offers a space for students to interact while they’re away from campus.

“I think it’s helped at least a number of us, especially some with not-so-great home conditions now,” Hout said. “They can still chat with their friends, they’re not completely isolated, they can still share things with their friends pretty easily, and I think it’s helped some of us stay more sane than others.”

Hout said that while the club has had to abandon its in-person engagements, it hasn’t been impacted as much as other organizations that rely on a campus presence. Since the shutdown, he said he has noticed an increase in students using the server to interact with one another.

“Every night, usually someone would be on there and they might talk to two or three people, but now I’m seeing, like earlier in the day, larger groups and people jumping in and out,” he said.

Hout said the club is looking into putting together virtual events to help students deal with COVID-19 and social distancing issues. He said having a space for people to get some kind of social interaction and share stories is important in a time of change, even if it’s digital.

Students can join the Ohio State Discord server through the club’s invite link.

“I think that with the whole quarantine and not being sure about what’s going on, being able to talk with people and share your whole, ‘What’s working for you, what you’re scared of, what you’re hearing,’ I think it’s really valuable right now,” Hout said.