The trials and tribulations of being a Cardiff Uni Social Sec this year

‘Down it fresher’ just isn’t the same over Zoom

Although ‘freshers’ is officially over, it is unfair to say that the freshers of 2020 had the full experience. A large factor in this is the enormous lack of face to face meet-ups within clubs or societies, which in turn eliminates a huge opportunity to make both friends and memories. We spoke to some of Cardiff’s Social Secretaries to find out what it’s really like this year…

It’s nearly impossible to get new members

The first problem facing social secs this year is the struggle to attract new members, and with the absence of a freshers fair, that is proving to be near impossible.

“People aren’t keen to join Zoom Meetings with strangers so it’s hard for us as a committee to get freshers engaged”, Aoife O’Sullivan from the History Society told the Tab Cardiff.

“How can we build relationships with students?”

How do clubs promote themselves effectively without risking their own safety by handing out leaflets and meeting people? In short, it is tough to find a middle ground where both can be achieved. History Social Secretary, Aoife, continued, “I’ve tried to advertise the society by posting on social media and in freshers group chats, but with current algorithms and the absence of face to face chat, how can we build relationships with students?”

First year can be daunting at the best of times and with the added confusion of the ever-changing uni rules, it is fair to say societies and sports teams may fall under the radar for the time being. This is likely to have negative social affects on freshers and other students alike.

There’s no block bookings or leagues until January

Another factor in the complicated matter of keeping sports teams going this year is the inability to block book facilities, such as the netball courts. Understandably, it’s hard for a prospective member to prioritise your club if it is held at a different time in a different location each week. Furthermore, according to Government guidelines, there are to be no leagues or matches for many popular sports such as rugby, hockey and netball until at least January, with other sports such as football only being allowed to play 7 aside games.

“We’ve had to remove socials for the time being”

Matthew Rodgers from Phystory Rugby told the Tab Cardiff,  “we’ve had to cut out all contact and focus on fitness and handling skills. Socials wise we’ve been creative in coming up with ideas but with the increasing restrictions, we have had to remove this aspect from our club for the time being”. Therefore, many long-time club-members will be missing out, particularly captains, many of whom will have waited 3 years to be able to lead a team, both on and off the pitch.

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“Zoom has made it less personal”

For social secs in particular, this year has been far more intense than before. Everyone wants socials but the restrictions the university has placed on societies and sports teams means that any large gatherings are basically impossible to arrange. In order to follow social distancing measures, socials should be held virtually… which is obviously nowhere near the same!

Holly Dearn, Social Secretary of Carbs Netball told The Cardiff Tab, “the online zoom events have made it less personal. Carbs have over 100 girls in the club so we’ve definitely really struggled.”

Having to adapt can be challenging

Socially distanced outdoor gatherings in groups up to 30 would be the best hope, but as we approach winter and the weather continues to get worse, we lose the ability to do this. Katie Hauger, Social Secretary of Cardiff Ladies Hockey Club told The Cardiff Tab that they have been having socials in Bute Park. “In these uncertain times, we are willing to adapt and hope to increase the number of socials once restrictions ease”.

Socials really aren’t that social anymore

Certain venues have reached out to Social Secs and said that it is possible to book out tables, as long as everyone sits in groups of 6, with only members of their households, and wear masks whenever leaving their seats. Yet again, this eliminates the primary purpose of a social – to meet and interact with new people! It also means an increase in costs, as the previous format of socials began with cheaper pre-drinks in someone’s house before going to the SU, where students got free entry. The new rulings are therefore making socials less viable for many students on a budget.

Societies put on the backburner?

It is much harder to organise a social and pretty much guaranteed that it won’t be as good as last years. “Being a social sec this year is so difficult because everything is so unprecedented”, Kate Waldock from the CU Pride Society told The Cardiff Tab. “All the plans I had going into this role aren’t viable with social distancing measures”

Is there any hope for the future?

Both socials and training will be put on hold for the time being with Wales currently in a stricter lockdown. It seems Wednesday nights in Cardiff may not be the same for the foreseeable future. However, it was clear from talking to a variety of Social Secretaries that they are all determined to give new students the best experience possible and hopefully the situation will improve soon.

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• Here’s all the things I’d tell my naïve fresher self right now

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• Listen up: Here’s everything freshers need to know before agreeing to live with someone