Student groups are being discouraged from traveling or meeting in person for the rest of the semester, as the Associated Students of the University of Montana (ASUM) adjusts its operations to respond to the spread of COVID-19.
ASUM is asking groups to suspend nonessential meetings and to not meet in groups larger than 10. The student government also canceled all group funding for travel, according to its FAQ site.
“We’ve kind of just been told to stay here, stay as healthy as possible,” said junior Grace Stephens, co-captain of UM’s female ultimate frisbee team Pillow Fight.
All leaders of student groups that receive ASUM funding received an email on Friday, March 13 informing them about canceled funds and encouraging them to reconsider how, or if, they will meet.
“Any student group continuing their travel plans is accepting responsibility for their own actions moving forward and acknowledges the potential risk of coming into contact with COVID-19,” said ASUM Business Manager Daniel Parsons in the email.
Stephens said the team is disappointed. There were four more competitions the team planned to take part in, all of which were canceled. One would have been the first all-woman frisbee tournament hosted in Missoula. However, Stephens believes the cancelations are for the better.
According to Stephens, Pillow Fight will continue to meet, but only in groups smaller than 10. The groups will play outside where the air is better circulated. Members of the team still want to be able to see one another and stay in shape. Stephens said she wants to make sure the team still feels like a team. She also wants the team’s two remaining seniors to feel supported.
The captains encouraged anyone who feels sick not to participate and are asking players not to share water bottles.
Scott Glickman, the co-captain of the men’s ultimate frisbee team SmokeJump, said the team isn't holding official practices anymore, though players will likely have optional group tossing at the park in small groups. He said the team will remain in contact, but is avoiding gathering in large groups.
Glickman’s team, especially the three seniors on the team, were also disappointed to have to cancel competitions.
SmokeJump managed to get funds back from a prepaid competition, something ASUM has offered to assist groups with. Any student group that paid for an event that requires travel can email the ASUM office manager Gwen Coon for help getting money back.
ASUM has also closed its offices and will hold all future meetings through video conferencing. UDASH will remain operational, but will only run the green, purple and red lines every 30 minutes, and passengers are asked to enter through the back door. The Food Pantry is offering services via grab bags left outside its doors, and ASUM Childcare is closed.
“While children are less susceptible to the effects of COVID-19, they are more likely to spread it to others,” according to ASUM’s COVID-19 FAQs page. “By nature, they engage in more high risk behaviors like spreading mucus and coughing freely.”
Senate meetings will also continue over Zoom, but senator office hours have been canceled.
As for elections, all required forms will still be due, but need to be scanned and submitted via Qualtrics, said ASUM Senator Morgan Corkish in a video on the ASUM Facebook page.
Corkish said there will be consistent updates on the Facebook page regarding the election and how it’s changing in response to COVID-19. She encouraged people who are campaigning to pay attention to announcements and to reach out to her if they have any difficulties with things like petitioning.
“We are absolutely willing to work with everyone through this interesting and questionable time,” Corkish said in the video. “And just know that as information comes up it’s likely that some of these things will continue to be changing.”