Nearly 2,000 ACUI members and students attended ACUI’s eight regional virtual conferences spread out through November and into December and offering hundreds of educational sessions, hours and hours of networking opportunities, and keynotes and roundtables, many of which reflected the order of the day: the pandemic and racial justice.
Black Lives Matter organizer and Los Angeles chapter leader Melina Abdullah was the Region I keynote sponsored by California State University–Northridge, and San Francisco State University’s Tari Hunter and Tonee Sherrill teamed up on a Black Lives Matter session, “Dispelling Myths & the Role of the Student Union.”
At Region II, a social justice panel included the region’s incoming inclusivity coordinator, Michael Facey of Truman State University, and Radford University NAACP student chapter president Tyana Davis. Region III keynote Chris Singleton, an inspirational speaker and former pro baseball player, brought his message of “love is stronger than hate” as he spoke about the murder of his mother in the 2015 mass shooting at Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina. Christopher Hawkins and Julia Pratt of Mississippi State University also examined the intent and impact of public statements from campuses on racial justice with their session, “We Released a Statement, Now What?”
“Access does not equal equity” and “commitment without currency is counterfeit” were the takeaways from a Region V social justice panel, and New York Times bestselling author Austin Channing Brown talked about her book “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness” as the Region VIII keynote speaker.
The heavy lifting continued as educational sessions delved into the ever-present need of adapting to and making the best of the pandemic situation. Professionals from Iowa State University (Region V) explained how a virtual version of their annual ClubFest drew 139,000 views, accumulated 4,800 hours of virtual engagement, and offered information about 230 student organizations.
Region IV joined other regions by offering a two-part discussion on the future impacts of COVID-19, first covering operations, programs, technology, and services, and then focusing on its impacts on identity-based communities. These sessions were organized by ACUI’s Communities of Practice. The region also had a COVID-19 best practices roundtable and sessions addressing facility management tips during the pandemic, and how to be innovative during changing and challenging times.
Professionals from four Region VI campuses got together to share an educational session on how they worked together from their various student unions to “discuss, inform, plan, adapt, and ultimately support each other” during the pandemic. Facility management and the enforcement of COVID-19 policies was the topic of one roundtable, and second one put the spotlight on best practices for facilities management during the pandemic.
Georgetown University’s Patrick Ledesma led a Region VII session on how student union professionals there collaborated with other university departments, redeploying into new roles and assisting with other areas of COVID-19 related on-campus management. Then Howard Gunston of Stony Brook University followed up with an interactive session on their
campus’s quest for successful, socially distanced event center and “the very thing that this never-ending year of 2020 keeps denying us: consistency.”
As is the case with every regional conference, be they the 2020 virtual versions or the on-campus gatherings of the past, room is always made for fun and fundraising. Region I beat its fundraising goal with a successful silent auction, and Region VII raised funds with a Mystery Bag sale of fun prizes, an auction, and through donations, resulting in $3,917 contributed for scholarships.
Regions reported some of the most fun was had during daily virtual scavenger hunts conducted through regional Instagram accounts, and virtual union tours were a hit this year as well, with Region V going the extra mile and offering virtual tours of unions on 12 member campuses. Region II got help from College Trivia Nerds and Rebelle Events to conduct a Humans of Higher Education trivia night, and a Bad Art Contest conducted by Region VI apparently had participants cracking up as they made “art” from used potato chip bags, paper clips, and an array of other home office supplies. Chelsea Schwab, assistant director of programs and recreation at Purdue University, took the Best Bad Art with her three-dimensional “Pumpkin Gone Wrong” piece.