Support group witnesses low attendance rate following campus re-opening. Beloved sanctuary becomes a ghost-town.
By Edona Avdiu
Club meetings across the CSI campus can only attract three or four students, according to the coordinator of the LGBT Support Group.
Jeremiah Jurkiewicz, the coordinator, said that the center is in more of a ‘rebuilding period’ post-pandemic because of a lot of students not being active. The support group meetings continue to be a major part of the Resource Center, although students don’t regularly attend the meetings like they used to in the past.
Before the COVID pandemic, the center expected around eight to ten students at these support group meetings, which was very high. Now, the regular attendance rate is more like two to four people per meeting. Besides that, students rarely consistently show up to these meetings, whether it be work or other conflicts keeping them from coming back.
Attendance isn’t a requirement, but the pandemic’s effects have yet to wear off, since students still hesitate on joining these meetings in-person, rather than online.
“Students are struggling with in-person communication,” said Jurkiewicz. “Socializing is something you have to practice.”
Students became comfortable with online meetings, even though there were many that felt the opposite. Most students felt disconnected from the campus at the time, so shifting back to in-person communication was an awkward change.
From the beginning, Jurkiewicz began talking with Carol Brower, the director of Student Life, about other options for LGBT students, since counseling showed mixed results. The clinical feel of it turned students away from counseling, so Jurkiewicz created the peer support group. The support group gives students the opportunity to talk about their problems with those in their own community.
The meetings maintain a small group of students, the max being ten. In a setting like this, Jurkiewicz believes too many people can lead to some students not being heard.
Members of the center decide when the meetings are scheduled every semester. Jurkieqicz accommodates the schedules of students by creating a short survey where members can vote on what time is best. For the most part, roughly ten students take the survey out of the estimated 80 that are a part of the center.
During the pandemic, support group meetings continued virtually, and members met twice a week. Even with its easy accessibility, the meetings struggled with gathering more than a few students.
According to a poll from Pew Research, 65% of students prefer in-person instruction over online learning. The same applies here for the support group.
Leo Hancok, a member of the center, joined when the support group was still online. While everything else in the center went back to being in-person, the support group meetings stayed online. In his experience, he prefers in-person meetings because there’s less of an emotional barrier.
“I find it better in-person,” said Hancok. “You don’t get the same effect as you would in-person when you’re online.”
Before the pandemic, students constantly occupied the center.
Arnold Lopez can attest to how the center was like before, during, and after COVID. Prior to the pandemic, students used the support group as a sort of ‘check-in’, according to Lopez. Every support group meeting had around eight to ten students attending and kept up a steady attendance.
“On their way out, the students would stop by,” said Lopez. “There was very rarely no one in the center.”
Looking back, what was once a lively center has now become a quieter, more muted place that many used to refer to as a ‘home away from home,’ according to Jurkiewicz.
“Students saw this as their space,” said Jurkiewicz. “It was an everyday pride parade.”
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