The Minerva House Program in the time of COVID-19

Sorum and Green Houses conjoined building

Dante Sasso Jr.

Sorum and Green House’s conjoined building

Caitlin Boice and Ariel Cooper

The Minerva program is a large part of Union College’s campus life, planning and providing many exciting events while also giving people a sense of community (and a place to live). While COVID-19 has made great changes to the campus environment and made traditional Minerva events like Fall For Schenectady virtually impossible, that is not stopping the different houses from embracing the situation and finding new ways to provide fun and accessible activities to everybody on (and off) campus.

While Green House’s yearly Paint it Green event usually takes place inside the Minerva’s great room, the house has reimagined the event and managed to hold two successful Paint it Greens, socially distanced outside on the Rugby field. Both events yielded successful results, with high turnout. Green House also had a virtual sign-up for the event, with painting supplies being sent out to the remote students so they can enjoy Paint it Green from the comfort of their own homes. When asked about Green’s process for planning events, co-chair Jill Ramey ’23 said, “Green’s goal has been to take advantage of the 25 person max as much as we can because we recognize that students are tired of being on their computers all day.”

Weekly meetings are conducted virtually to give all students equal opportunity to get involved. Green House’s PR chair, Hailey Stoltenberg ’23, is one of the many students studying virtually, and has enjoyed being able to stay involved. “As a student who’s studying virtually this term, I’ve really appreciated having council meetings as usual and planning events. It helps me feel like I’m still a part of the campus community!” Adenike Hickson ’22, Green’s finance chair, commented on first-year involvement, saying that “I want first years to at least get a glimpse of what the program has to offer, how it operates, and how they can get involved because soon it will be their turn to continue the program’s legacy.”

Sorum House has also faced unique challenges with the advent of COVID-19. Turning towards Zoom events last spring term, Sorum attempted to engage students while maintaining ever evolving social distancing guidelines. Unfortunately, toward weeks five and six of the term participation in these events declined as Zoom burnout rose.

In order to counteract lack of virtual enthusiasm, Sorum is in the process of coming up with new socially distant activities this term, like their weekly walk to the Green Market on Sunday mornings.

Co-Chair of Sorum Ella Harper-Schiehl ’23 explained “Minervas on campus are a place where students can go to have a social life, and I think if Minervas and clubs don’t try and find ways to host events that are socially distant, a lot of students will choose to hold their own events which often won’t be socially distant.”

Sorum and the other houses have begun to get creative in their planning of events, including reaching out to freshmen to participate in “Halloweek,” where every house leads one day of activity in the week that precedes Halloween.

Minervas are attempting to strike a balance between maintaining their fundamental purpose of community, while also making sure their leaders and student patrons are staying physically and mentally healthy has proved to be a difficult feat. Though social distancing makes it harder to connect, Minervas are in the process of reaching out to the student body to reassure us the world is still moving forward.