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Clubs at U of T express optimism for the fall, plan for hybrid and online programming

Number of students interested in campus clubs increases since last year
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A Hart House Theatre production. PHOTO COURTESY OF SCOTT GORMAN/HART HOUSE THEATRE
A Hart House Theatre production. PHOTO COURTESY OF SCOTT GORMAN/HART HOUSE THEATRE

As the pandemic continues to complicate student life, many clubs — especially those that rely on in-person interaction, like athletic and performing arts clubs — are navigating the different ways in which they can deliver programming. 

The Varsity interviewed several U of T clubs on their upcoming plans for the academic year. Clubs generally expressed hope that some events will be held in person this year.

Modes of delivery

Clubs like the Hart House Chorus and the U of T Taekwondo club have decided to offer programming in a hybrid format.

Michelle Prunier, executive secretary of the Hart House Chorus, explained in an interview with The Varsity that rehearsals will be held in person with students masked and physically distanced in Hart House’s Great Hall with some students being able to follow along virtually. However, performances will be done online with the option of in-person concerts. 

The U of T Taekwondo Club is also holding small in-person classes, but ran online classes throughout the summer. President Alicia Chang said that, despite some hiccups, “a lot of people still enjoyed it.” 

Vice-President External Maryam Younis added that, “there’s always the challenge when it comes to a martial art because it’s a contact sport, right? How do you do something like that over Zoom?”

Other clubs, like the U of T Fashion Club, the Victoria College Drama Society (VCDS), and U of T Improv, decided to stick to online programming. 

Shreya Gupta, the general director and founder of U of T Fashion Club, clarified that meetings to plan the fashion show, which will happen in the winter semester, are on pause. Though the club is considering holding these meetings outdoors, activities like discussions on fashion and education and other informal interactions will still be happening online. 

Lisha Shaikh, executive producer of the VCDS, noted that “even though [online programming] has its own beauty… there’s still a lot of challenges and there’s a lot of effort put in.” VCDS’ plan, she told The Varsity, is to hold things mostly online for now. It might organize online plays in the fall, but hopes to hold dramas in person in the winter semester. 

Meanwhile, U of T Improv plans to have in-person drop-in sessions, but will continue to offer an option for online engagement as well. According to the minutes of its August meeting, the club will continue to assess the safety and viability of in-person programming on a weekly basis.

Shaikh mentioned that the VCDS received many proposals from interested participants. “Everybody is really eager to put on a show,” she said. Likewise, Prunier told The Varsity that “based on the way the numbers are going, [the Hart House Chorus will] probably have a larger group than we did last year.” 

U of T Taekwondo also saw increased interest from students. Chang pointed out that the club has almost tripled the number of its members since the summer. Younis explained that “even just for class signups, we got a lot more numbers than we anticipated, [and] we had to split the session up into two groups.” 

Gupta acknowledged the U of T Fashion Club is still navigating the early stages of being a club. She said that “there has been an enormous amount of interest.” The club started with about 12 people, but now that number is over 50. 

The overarching message from these interviews is that students are eager to participate in campus life, but there are still many questions and uncertainties regarding how extracurricular programming will actually take place this year.