This week marked the beginning of a new trajectory for student societies, as Monday 12th of October saw the start of the first ‘Virtual Freshers Week’ in UCD. With societies facing various issues such as heavy health restrictions, technical challenges and membership issues, how did the week play out across the board?

Various events were held across social media platforms, as well as Zoom, throughout the week, from ‘virtual coffee mornings’ to online debates and quizzes. As well as this, societies spent hours on Zoom in their ‘Virtual Freshers Week Tent’ where they welcomed new members and answered queries.

Various student societies noted different levels of success upon reflection of the shifted online approach; with membership generally increasing in varying degrees, despite subscription and joining fees having been removed from this year. Attendees of events also varied across different events and societies; with others being more successful than some. The interactions of first years were deemed the strongest with new students being keen on finding ways to socialise as a result of no on-campus activities.

Alix Duplessy, President of UCD French Society, had mainly positive reflections of the week, stating that membership had increased sharply, along with a substantial turnout to online events and recognised the efforts of committee members: “I am so proud of my team”. She did however note that the situation was a “working and complex process” with issues being faced such as communication, information, finance and technical issues.

In speaking to The College Tribune, a number of student societies remarked on the current minor support and lack of clarity being received by the UCD Student Societies Council. The Council was criticised for the delay of providing information to societies regarding the upcoming semester’s technicalities. The Council has also put in place some obligations of societies which requires them to submit events for review and to not advertise zoom links or access on societies social media channels.

Representatives from UCD Food Society, who were named ‘Society of the Year 2020’ by the Societies Council, reported positive outcomes from the week overall, noting the popularity of giveaways with partners among members and also added that “The move online was originally very challenging, but we feel now we are finding our stride and adapting to the conditions as best we can”.

Aoife Bracken, the auditor of UCD Politics Society, expressed gratitude for the Societies Council stating “The Societies Council have had a very tough start to the year and we appreciate all the help we received from them” and also welcomed their decision to axe the collection of fees from members. In discussing recent negative tweets in relation to societies, she added that “we believe that people are entitled to their own opinion and we feel sorry for all those people who had negative experiences with student societies” and stated that all societies, now a “lifeline and a connection to the university while we work, mostly, from home”, should be “aware of going forward so [they] can strive to create a more welcoming atmosphere for all students”.

Eve Moore – Reporter