Student interest in extracurriculars on the rise

By Ashley Ward, Secretary and Assistant Editor

FARMINGTON 一 Extracurriculars at the University of Maine at Farmington have reported a struggle with student involvement and membership over the last 18 months as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, group leaders believe that there is hope on the horizon.

For on-campus clubs, it was nearly impossible for students to engage in activities. Those that did join were faced with the responsibilities for several in-club positions.

“We took a hard hit last year with the pandemic and got all the way down to one member,” said Artemis Monteith, President of the Nightmare Club. According to Monteith, the club went all the way from 20 members to almost disbanding. Now the club has up to 16 members.

Learning Commons Coordinator William St. John noted increased difficulty in making new tutor hires for this academic year. “I’ve sent out dozens of emails…offering students jobs. Saying, ‘I’ll hire you! And you get to work your own hours, and get paid 12 bucks an hour!’ and most of them never replied,” St. John said.

St. John said that even though students haven’t been as aggressive at seeking out academic help from tutors, numbers are on the rise.

“…tutoring this semester is doing better than it was last semester at this time,” St. John said.

Despite the limited student participation last year, organizations on campus are optimistic about student interest levels returning to pre-pandemic levels with enough time. Advisor of the Student Senate Kirsten Swan said each incoming class of first year students brings a wave of reinvigorated enthusiasm back to extracurricular activities on campus. The increase of participation is observed in the demographics of several clubs and their members, as well as in the Student Senate.

“I think the future is pretty bright for the Student Senate. Everybody on the executive board is new, except for the President, and there are a lot of first and second year students that are Student Senators. There seems to be a lot of good energy in terms of wanting to get involved and wanting to find out what the Student Senate is all about,” Swan said.

Returning to Normalcy

By Ashley Ward, Assistant Editor and Secretary

FARMINGTON — Students are facing feelings of discomfort this semester as The University of Maine at Farmington campus makes an effort to return to how things were before COVID-19. Throughout the last 18 months, with the introduction and removal of COVID-19 barriers, students have been required to consistently relearn the changing social norms of the UMF campus.

Sophomore Katelyn Ryan said that the biggest change between the previous school year was the use of the campus dining hall. “I knew that seating was coming back but I didn’t realize the tables and chairs would be that close,” Ryan said. “I expected to have the option of grab-and-go more readily available too, it feels like a shock to be sitting down with people and using real plates and utensils.”

Second year students are now tasked with the challenge of relearning the social norms around campus. For upperclassmen, they likely have some amount of pre-pandemic college experience under their belt to pull from, but it can be especially daunting to be in to be a sophomore on campus and having no idea how to do anything, yet feeling pressured to have a sense of stability and social grace.

“It’s definitely something that I’ll have to get used to…I think I expected the adjustment to be more gradual rather than going from a 6-foot distance to a 6-inch distance…it’ll just take some time for me to adjust as someone who’s more introverted,” Ryan said.

Senior Brooke Miller said that one of the few obstacles left separating this school year from a pre-pandemic year is the mask policy. “The mask policy is interesting because it’s almost like a fusion between what I remember campus being like before and what I remember last year as,” Miller said. “It’s still a pandemic, but also feels like it’s not…Sometimes it generates a happy feeling in me, but sometimes it makes me feel frustrated because I want this to be over and for all of us to have done our accountability with COVID-19.

UMF, like all campuses across the country, was forced to adapt to COVID-19 in the spring semester of 2020 without much forewarning. Students, new and returning, waited for updates from administrators regarding what their school year might look like upon the return to campus for Fall 2020. This year, however, students have hope amidst their dismay surrounding the potential return of social freedoms, and such is reflected in the removal of social distancing obstacles campus-wide.