This semester, countless hours of hard work were put into planned activities such as concerts, musicals and performances. Then, they were canceled.
In the weeks following the coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent decision to hold all classes online for the rest of the semester, the Binghamton University community has been left with uncertainty regarding grades, scholarships and other matters. But an additional source of anguish for many students involved in on-campus endeavors has been the cancellation of nearly every major event scheduled for the spring semester.
Daniel Stark, co-director of Hinman Production Company’s (HPC) rendition of “Spring Awakening” and a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, said he has been forced to resign himself to the reality that his show will not see the stage.
“Obviously this is necessary for public health, but it’s still disappointing to put in all of this work and not be able to see it through,” Stark said. ”A lot of people, myself included, we poured our lives into this, and to not get to see the end of it is really disappointing.”
In the days leading up to the University’s decision to move classes online, uncertainty and a lack of communication from officials made it difficult for organizers to plan ahead. Stark said the cast and crew continued to rehearse without knowing the fate of their production.
“There was always a creeping suspicion that the whole semester was about to change for everyone, but I really didn’t expect everything to happen so quickly,” Stark said. “I even told my cast the morning of everything being canceled, ‘For now it’s business as usual, until we hear otherwise, but we’ll have rehearsal tonight.’”
Stark wasn’t the only student holding out hope for scheduled events. Jaclyn Jew, president of BU’s Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) chapter and a junior double-majoring in biology and political science, said she initially remained optimistic about LiNK’s concert planned for April 17.
“We had suspicions, but we were sort of holding out hope in case things did make a turn for the better,” she said.
According to Jew, LiNK expected to draw approximately 150 students to the concert, which was intended to raise money for the club’s efforts in assisting North Korean refugees.
“It goes toward getting refugees through pathways out of North Korea, and then resettling them with housing and food and sanitary products to start their new life,” Jew said.
The loss of the concert served as a blow to the chapter, which rebuilt itself after a few years of consistently losing e-board members to graduation. The benefit concert, which will be rescheduled for fall 2020, was meant to boost LiNK’s visibility on campus and bring in new members.
“The big vision behind this was to get our names back out there, and get back into the community space at [BU],” Jew said. “But we’ll just have to wait for fall 2020 then, I guess.”
Other clubs do not expect to have the financial resources to reschedule events in the fall. Many said they will be inhibited by the Student Association’s (SA) policy regarding activity fee allocations. Student groups get a set amount of money from the SA each academic year to host events, but funds that are not spent do not roll over into the next year. Without the money that groups could not spend this semester, some organizations will have to make tough choices to preserve their financial situation for the coming year.
Alec Somerstein, SA vice president for finance and a senior double-majoring in mathematics and business administration, said that despite discussions, the SA currently plans to maintain its policy regarding rollover funds. He hopes to increase the discretionary fund, which allows the SA to give additional money to organizations that need more than their budget allocates. However, the move is only possible with a majority vote from the SA Congress.
“Currently, there is a $33,000 allocation to this account,” Somerstein said. “I plan on increasing this by a good amount for next year’s use.”
But for many seniors and graduate students, there is no such thing as a next year for campus events. Tayana Woodton, a second-year graduate student studying music, is a member of BU Symphony Orchestra, which had to cancel its semester show in April. The show featured a performance of Antonín Dvořák’s “Symphony No. 9,” commonly known as the “New World Symphony.” Woodton said successfully performing the piece is an accomplishment, and expressed dismay at the show’s cancellation.
“We had some students already working on their parts for it, because it’s a really hard piece for every section of instruments,” Woodton said. “If you’re in the world of orchestra playing, then you know or have heard of the piece … It’s a very popular piece and everyone was really excited to play it — however, now we won’t have the opportunity to do it.”
To receive their degrees, graduate students concentrating in instrumental performance are required to hold a recital in which they perform a collection of material they have rehearsed on their own. The recital is similar to a senior thesis, a capstone of everything the student has learned, and is attended by tenure-track professors and the student’s adviser. Woodton already performed her recital in the fall, but said students who planned to perform in the spring will now have to perform to a nearly empty room or even over a Zoom call, as opposed to the typical audience that she experienced.
“You could advertise it however you want and attract as many people as you can, so that way you have the excitement and nervousness and the pressure, of course, of playing in front of an audience,” Woodton said. “This is kind of an opportunity that you won’t get a lot after you graduate.”
David Grinberg, music director for WHRW 90.5 FM and a sophomore majoring in economics, put over 60 hours of work into planning the club’s annual Moefest concert before the event was canceled. While he said he was frustrated about the cancellation, Grinberg focused on the graduating seniors who will not be able to see their final Moefest.
“The seniors, they’re really upset, and I can’t blame them,” Grinberg said. “I’m torn up, but I know these events will happen again; I’ll be here next year.”
Grinberg said WHRW is a club that students become incredibly attached to, and for seniors, having their final semesters cut short has been an emotional and painful experience. According to Grinberg, graduating members feel that their departure was incomplete.
“It almost felt like people were in grief,” he said. “A lot of the seniors I know on e-board … they’re kind of stuck without any closure. They won’t get to see these events that they worked hard on.”
This feeling of grief was also present in the members of HPC, including Stark. Still, despite the sadness that accompanied the cancellation of the musical, Stark said the cast and crew are choosing to focus on the connections they have built with each other and the personal growth they experienced through their hard work.
“We really tried to share with everyone that this wasn’t for nothing,” Stark said. “We all grew out of this even if we didn’t see it to the end.”
Editor’s note: David Grinberg is Pipe Dream’s digital intern. Grinberg did not contribute to the content of this article.