Zoom University: How campus life has changed for student affairs

By: Hayden Cordova | Managing Editor

For many students and faculty returning for the fall, Zoom has become an integral part of the everyday campus experience.  Zoom has emerged from its relative obscurity prior to the pandemic earlier this year and rooted itself in the public consciousness as one of the most recognizable communication tools of 2020.  

With South’s widespread implementation of the webcam program across campus, affecting nearly every facet of college life from classes to recreation to community events, keeping track of the many programs facilitated through Zoom can be daunting.

In an interview conducted over Zoom, Michael Mitchell, Vice President of Student Affairs, discussed how his job has changed in the past months due to Zoom’s presence.

“My area includes all the student engagement pieces on campus, and almost everything is ‘Zooming’ now,” Mitchell said. “Zoom was not widely applied in our area prior to the pandemic.  We like to see students and reach out and have an experience with them, so having those experiences through Zoom was relatively new for us.  But we were fortunate in that…we were able to not have too long of a transition period getting into Zoom in the spring, which was not as difficult as we thought it would be initially.”

Mitchell gave an overview of some of the prominent activities on campus that have transitioned to Zoom:

Student Government Association: The student-led governing body of the university, dedicated to enriching student experience and bridging communications between students and faculty, will continue their weekly meetings through Zoom.

Office of Multicultural Student Affairs: With a mission statement of providing “an environment that facilitates holistic academic, personal, and social development and success, through diversity, inclusion, and opportunity,” the Multicultural Office continues to reach out to underrepresented students through Zoom. 

Counseling and Testing Center, Student Health Center: While both facilities remain open for in-person consultations, clients can also set up an appointment over Zoom for tending to both physical and mental well-being.

Jaguar Productions: While the student programming JP provides has largely consisted of in-person gatherings, their calendar remains packed with events hosted through Zoom and catering to the online interaction. 

Student Recreation Center: With social distancing in place for those utilizing the fitness center in person, students also have the opportunity to participate in fitness classes that are being hosted via Zoom.

Mitchell also discussed the potential positives and negatives revolving around Zoom’s impact on campus life, and remained optimistic about the future.

“Everyone comes to college wanting to have that college experience,” Mitchell said.  “That’s kind of the downside of being in that virtual environment is it sometimes restricts you to a singular space, be it an apartment, residence hall room, or commuting from home. But I think that there have been some positives that have come out of having almost everything is facilitated through Zoom.  We’ve seen some increased participation because students who may not originally have access to those services or programs are now finding it’s a whole lot easier to get to some things because they’re in a Zoom room.  There’s a lot of stuff still happening in the area of student life and student engagement, but most of it is still happening thanks to Zoom.”