Student Club Meetings Are Online: Solidarity Continues
The 2020-2021 academic year has begun in universities. In many universities across Turkey courses will be conducted online. There is a difference this academic year. Students could not find an opportunity to visit the campus, clubs could not meet students on campus and the students could not experience the excitement of starting the new academic year due to Covid-19 measures. But many student organizations have adapted to this new situation.
For instance, Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) student societies introduced themselves to the students starting their first year at university by organizing an online orientation and told them about their planned activities. Many student organizations that do not consider physical absence on campuses as an obstacle also welcomed the students with messages of solidarity. The organizations that sent support messages shared their new friends’ and colleagues’ excitement.
As the Civic Space Studies Association, we have previously shared a video about the solidarity of university clubs and societies with university students who have just started their education. This time, we interviewed members of student clubs and societies and asked them how this solidarity process works, how they are organized and what kind of feedback they have got from students.
Bilkent Women Studies Society, an official student club, summarized the solidarity process as follows: “Our goal was to actively integrate new students into university life. For this purpose, we have decided to organize an event where we can bring together students who are enrolled at the university this year and students who will continue their education. We organized a ‘Meet and Greet’’ meeting in Zoom. ” The society (members) state that they are already active on campus, adding that at the meeting, they made a presentation in which they introduced the board of directors, previous activities and activities planned for this year.
Bilkent Women Studies Community reports that this year’s activity program was shared with the students, including new student ideas on new activities. Stating that they made additions to the activity plans after positive returns, the team emphasizes that in this way, new students are included in the club.
Bahçeşehir University Colored Roof Club (members) state that they got organized on social media and that they received positive responses from students: “There were students who wanted to join the club after the meeting day, or who wanted to join our events even though they were not members. We got positive responses. As a result, we created a platform on our campus where everyone can freely express themselves. […] We have become a very nice family. We told each other about our troubles and laughed (gullüm alıktık) (1) all together. We look forward to meeting new people in the fall term. ”
İTÜ Solidarity(Istanbul Technical University), a platform formed by students seeking solutions to financial and democratic problems in the university, stated that they received positive feedback from the newly enrolled university students: Students asked questions about the school by sending messages on Twitter. We have included friends with whom we communicate one-on-one to Whatsapp groups. We tried to direct our friends -who have concerns about online education and ask for support, stating that they need computers and internet access- to the relevant offices ( institutions, persons…) where they can find solutions.
İTÜ Solidarity, which organized a boycott against private businesses on the campus last year, states that solidarity has increased after the boycott and explains how they got together with the newly enrolled students as follows: “ITU Solidarity is a student platform spontaneously established by ITU students. Therefore we have never had any communication problems. On the contrary, we have reached out to many students we did not know before and enabled them to participate in discussion and decision-making processes. We think that the non-hierarchical structure of the group is very effective in the communication between us and other students. “
ITU Solidarity states that the students adapt to this process quicker than expected and that student-focused discussions and forums will be held during the fall term.
Another group we interviewed isBilkent Think Colorful Group. The team states that they aim to create a safe space on campus: “Newly enrolled students are both timid and inquisitive. They are looking for a safe space and want to be accepted. We do our best, we try to stand by them and their reactions make our efforts worthwhile.” Stating that they will organize meetings with new students, the club explains the process of joining the community as follows: “New students usually find us or come across the meeting announcements and participate enthusiastically. We also have students who join us later in their second and third years of study. “
Finally, we interviewed Lavender LGBTIQ+ Society.Lavender, Aegean University Gender Studies Society members stated that they used to organize a meeting and solidarity party “ Welcome to Aegean Lubunya” (2) in recent years, but this year they will continue their meetings online due to the pandemic. They say that newly enrolled students often ask questions about the university and the city: “ Some of the students who will come from different cities to İzmir, asked if Izmir and Ege University are LGBTIQ + friendly.. We also received messages from our friends asking how they can join our community.” Stating that the events will be held online this year, Lavender LGBTIQ + Society told us that they would hold face-to-face events in case the pandemic regresses. The team emphasizes that being side by side strengthens the students, and that they will continue to keep the solidarity strong with regular activities and meetings.
It seems that distances do not prevent solidarity between students. They work together to ensure that newly enrolled university students are not alone and help new arrivals get used to the university. As the Civic Space Studies Association, we state once again that we are in solidarity with all friends who have just started university and who are continuing university education.
(1) Gullüm alıktık means “we laughed and have fun” in Lubunca, the queer slang spoken in Turkey. (2) Lubunya means Queer in Lubunca.