University site facilitates student connections, some with disregard to gathering guidelines

A group of three walk toward the outdoor workspaces near Shafer Court Dining Center. Photo by Jon Mirador

Sagal Ahmed, Contributing Writer 

Students may be meeting up through an online university resource with a heavy presence of clubs and organizations, despite a ban on student gatherings of 10 or more people on or off campus. 

University Student Commons & Activities Director David Greene said his department monitors student engagement on RamsConnect, a site used by student groups to recruit new members. Greene said the department sent messages to groups on the site, urging students take precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19. 

“We don’t see everything, but we are trying to track that,” Greene said. 

VCU and VCU Health President Michael Rao said in an Aug. 20 release that students hosting parties or other gatherings on or off-campus with more than 10 people are subject to interim suspension.

“We become more vulnerable when we attend large parties or social gatherings without proper physical distancing and not wearing masks,” Rao said in the release.

If university employees find that an individual or an organization is holding an event that may have more than 10 people, Greene said his department will send a private message to the host and remind them of mandatory social distancing guidelines. 

Since the start of the fall semester, dozens of students have posted in RamsConnect to find friends, gym partners or fellow students to play cards with.

“Any Spades players in the GRC??” one student said in an Aug. 19 post. “Looking to fill a spades game tonight if interested!” 

Another student posted on Sept. 18, “All my classes are online so I don’t have anyone to talk to. I’m trying to meet new people to just hang out, gym or do whatever.”

Greene said research suggests students who feel they are connected to the university can have a positive impact on their ability to graduate on time.

RamsConnect, which has about 271 scheduled programs, allows the department to track how students are engaging and how they can assist students, Greene said. 

“We use RamsConnect to track attendance to our events and as an assessment tool that shows the types of programs that draw the most students,” Greene said.

RamsConnect, developed by college tech service CampusGroups, changed during COVID-19 to offer virtual programming such as online fairs and booths for student organizations.

Art foundation freshman Claudia Gonzalez said the site was mostly “people asking if anyone wants to make friends.”

“I responded to one or two of the posts just because it sounds interesting,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez responded to a post asking if anyone wanted to go to the clothing store Rumors Boutique, but found a lack of responses to replies she left on others’ posts. 

To freshman accounting major Victoria Wright, the community aspect translates well on the site she deemed “user-friendly.”

“I like that it has a feed section, where you can see what people have posted, it’s great,” Wright said.

Wright said she enjoys using RamsConnect to join different clubs alongside other students.

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