By Johnny O’Brien

Campus organizations at Florida Tech have commenced with the start of the school year, with organization leaders prioritizing safety as they plan their events. 

Florida Tech’s First Year Experience, spearheaded by Jessica Ha Bittner, offers a 1000-level university experience course, with the purpose of helping out new students during their initial academic and social transitions to Florida Tech. Their office offers educational and social programming throughout the year. The first program in their lineup debuts on Sept. 18, with Oscar-winning film Parasite for the FYE Film Series.

Ha Bittner says that FYE is following all protocols outlined in the Florida Tech Safe: Return to Learn plan. 

“We require masks for anyone to enter our office space, and we also offer in-person appointments for students who are on campus this fall, but highly encourage all students to meet with us virtually through Microsoft Teams meetings or via phone conferences,” Ha Bittner said.

The FYE office works primarily with incoming students who transfer in less than 30 credits and are considered first year students. Ha Bittner mentioned the office is not only providing students with resources and knowledge for first year at Florida Tech, but also ensuring they understand the safety measures in place at the university. 

“All FYE advisees are encouraged to speak with their advisor if they have any questions or concerns about Florida Tech, the transition to college life, or our pandemic response,” Ha Bittner said. “We promise to assist students with any questions they may have, including connecting the student with the appropriate resource needed to provide that assistance.”

The Homecoming committee is also having to adjust with all things COVID, as homecoming committee head Samara Gallion is taking precautions to ensure a fun and safe gathering for this year’s event. Gallion said that last year’s events were extended by a day and a half and the committee plans on doing the same for this year.

“Last year our events included Kick-off, Fall Earth Day, Big Night Out 2.0, Talent Show, Downtown Fest, Homecoming Football game, and Homecoming Carnival,” Gallion said. “These activities provide a lot of diversity for all students to find something to enjoy during the week and also gives them an outlet to destress.”

With COVID-19 still a major concern, the homecoming committee made an executive decision to move homecoming to the spring semester. 

“All of our plans have been shifted back and we will be working diligently to make Homecoming possible this year in an environment where everyone can feel safe,” Gallion said.

Gallion said she cannot make any statement yet if the school will have any limits to who can attend Homecoming activities this year, but the homecoming committee will be thoroughly discussing the implications of the population and safety adjustments that the school will be implementing come spring semester.

“The policies that we set in place this year might not occur in the following, but they are something that should be kept around as a baseline for any event such as COVID,” Gallion said. 

Nicolette Murphey, president of the Marine Biological Society at Florida Tech, and treasurer Erika Kurtzweil said that the organization is unable to gather large groups for their beach cleanups due to COVID-19.

“We’re strongly encouraging people to still go to the beach independently and pick up any trash they find, but it’s not the same group effort we’ve been able to have in the past,” Murphey said.

Kurtzweil said the group is hopeful that they will be able to pick events back up in the spring semester. 

Murphey said the organization has had to make some changes to adapt to the new normal, including cancelling their spring snorkeling trip and placing many plans on hold to keep members safe.

Florida Tech’s fall sports have also experienced delays and changes due to COVID-19. Daniel Supraner, director of athletic communications, said that the department is doing all they can to make sure student-athletes remain safe on campus, with team practices halted from the start of the semester until Sept. 7.

“We are educating and encouraging student-athletes to wear a mask, social distance, and avoid large gatherings and parties,” Supraner said.

Supraner said that practices will be based around small groups of ten or less athletes. 

On July 18, the Sunshine State Conference (SSC) Presidents Council announced that the 2020 fall sports season was being postponed, which included men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country and volleyball. 

“Right now, the plan is to have fall sports compete during the Spring 2021 semester but the exact start date has yet to be determined,” Supraner said.

Supraner said the start date for winter sports, including men’s and women’s basketball and men’s and women’s swimming, has yet to be announced as well. The normal start time for competition is usually in November. 

According to Supraner, fall sports will do a conference-only schedule and winter sports will likely do the same.

“At this time, none of our teams are able to schedule contests outside the state of Florida,” Supraner said.

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