By Emma Vallelunga
Performances at SUNY Plattsburgh aren’t happening the same way they used to this semester, and Night of Nations is no different. The annual event’s student-run committee is collaborating with on-campus offices and student organizations to keep this year’s performance alive during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hosting a live show this year like NON isn’t a reality right now. SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras established an emergency directive Sept. 25 to address violations of COVID-19 safety protocols across all SUNY campuses. Students found in violation of hosting or attending an on or off-campus event of any size could risk academic suspension, housing eviction or permanent dismissal from the institution. But the NON committee is working to host the event as safely as possible.
This year, NON will be a prerecorded event, and auditions for interested clubs are happening today via Zoom. Each group is expected to present its idea for its performance to the committee and come up with a plan for how that performance will later be rehearsed and recorded. Co-Director of Logistics Pilar Balader Herrero said the committee is hoping to hire a videographer to film and edit the performances together to create one NON show available to everyone.
“What we don’t know is if we want to livestream that video or post it somewhere for people to see,” Balader Herrero said. “We still have to figure that out.”
In year’s past, NON was a showcase of different cultures, where each club that performed showcased what made them unique. There was music, dancing, comedy and more. Now, students might be discouraged from participating in an event where all of those things are a potential risk to their health and safety. So in order to make those clubs feel safe, Balader Herrero said the committee is in the process of gathering a budget to provide clubs with masks, hand sanitizer and bottled water for the days each group is scheduled to record.
“We’re still figuring out the budget, but we do have some money set aside for that,” Balader Herrero said. “We want to show that despite everything, we still care about COVID. We want to do everything right, make the people feel like we care and [know] that we’re not just doing this because it’s done every year. We’re doing this because we want to.”
The committee hopes to work with each group on a case-by-case basis during auditions today.
“We need to know how many dancers they want, and if they want to use the auditorium, or if they want to have more people [performing], they can obviously do it outdoors, and then they’d have to be in contact with our videographer for them to go and record it,” Balader Herrero said.
NON is traditionally held in Giltz Auditorium in Hawkins Hall every year, so the committee had to go through the Event Management Office to see whether having the stage this year was even a possibility for groups that wanted to use it for their performances.
“We all just kind of bounced ideas off of each other,” Assistant Events Manager Leah Sweeney said about how the committee came to her office. “At the time, we had an idea of most of the regulations, but we were still trying to confirm some [things].”
Due to the general size of the Giltz stage, and in order to comply with COVID-19 safety protocols, only six people are allowed on the stage at any given time for one group’s scheduled performance, established by the college’s Maintenance and Operations Office.
“Because the stage has moving components to be considered, they determined that [number]. I just happened to be the messenger,” Sweeney said.
At first, Sweeney said she was concerned about how the committee would promote an event like NON live due to the risk of attracting a large crowd, but limiting the event to a recording is the best and safest way to do so, especially in a location like Giltz.
“Normally, Giltz can hold 789 people, but socially distant, it can hold 118, but by New York state guidelines, no event or gathering can be over 50 people,” Sweeney said. “If they were trying to do it live, Giltz has very bad WiFi reception, even though it’s been updated recently. If everyone in the auditorium was on the WiFi, the live streaming service would crash or be delayed. But because of the experiences we had at past events, [we knew] it wasn’t the greatest idea.”
While the committee is hoping students will still want to participate in NON like they had in the past, there is some confusion and uncertainty around the show. An informational session was held last week where the committee answered many questions from interested clubs.
“We know that most clubs don’t really know what’s happening right now,” Balader Herrero said. “We’re all a little lost, honestly. The e-board and I still have a lot of things to figure out.”
Sweeney said the good thing about working with the NON committee every year is its ability to educate and adapt.
“Night of Nations has the fortune of having that great support network and knowing the different offices on campus, and they’re really good at teaching the students who participate in it into using different resources to make something happen,” Sweeney said.
Balader Herrero said the committee is dedicated to promoting the safety of the event on social media as much as possible, especially for the students who don’t know how it’s going to work or why it still matters to those who are passionate about showcasing their culture. This year’s NON theme is Back in Time, a tribute to different cultures from different decades with a retro touch. If everything goes as planned, the committee hopes to have a NON video ready to share with the student body Nov. 6.
“Every year, we get to see the amazing work that clubs are doing [at NON], and this year, it’s even harder to do that,” Balader Herrero said. “We still want to put in that work to do something great for everyone to enjoy. I think it’s a message of how strong we can be if we work together, and it represents how we still want to move forward with life. Culture is something that doesn’t stop just because of a virus.”