KU Union Student Programs Persevere Despite COVID-19 Restrictions

The Big Event KU hosted its fall event, Mini Big Event, in a socially distanced format. Despite the obvious restrictions, students pulled off a safe and successful day of community service. Students were very intentional, from the mask mandate to touchless registration.

After the crushing cancellation of their main event in Spring 2020, students were determined to serve community members this fall. 112 participants divided amongst 20 different job sites for a full day of labor. “Despite the difficult, uncertain times, a student-led team and volunteers gather for a day of service to give back to a community that gives us a home. Everyone truly demonstrated the Jayhawk values of service and safety,” said Susie Glenn, The Big Event Director of Development.

The Big Event isn’t the only program that has persisted despite the obvious pandemic obstacles. Memorial Union programs such as Student Union Activities (SUA) and KJHK, the student-run radio station, continued to engage the KU community. 

Student Union Activities (SUA), the student programming board, and KJHK 90.7FM, the student-run radio station, both housed under the Union Programs wing of the KU Memorial Union, have also continued their long histories of creatively executing safe programming for the KU campus. SUA's long-standing Tea at Three event has shifted to an outdoor environment, when possible, with distanced line management and tea and cookie service on Ascher Plaza. Crafting events have been updated to allow students to pick up pre-packaged supply kits and have seen such positive student response that kits run out before the event end; the most recent Halloween slime kit had over 150 kits prepared and ran out in 40 minutes. SUA continues to engage students where they live: Friday Night series on Daisy Hill, which includes DJ entertainment and Bingo and Trivia Nights, and the newly revived movie series included outdoor movie screenings at the start of the semester and recent Drive-In screenings in the Lied Center of Kansas parking lot.  

When asked about the effect of Coronavirus on student programs, Program Coordinator, Whitney Mahoney, said: “Even at the peak of the pandemic, student leaders never stopped meeting virtually. That dedication really helped programs remain successful and set them up for success for the fall. The students’ drive throughout the process and their commitment to the KU community has never been more apparent.” 

KJHK transitioned to a system in June, enabling DJs to remotely broadcast from home 24/7. KJHK continues to broadcast sports on game days.  And in partnership with the Lied Center, the station hosts “Live @ KJHK,” where a local or touring band will come for a live show. This event moved to the larger Lied Center Pavillion for social distancing. Links to performances can be found on KJHK's YouTube channel.