Jackie Loh ’22
March 5, 2020
The Annual Chinese New Year Gala was postponed from February 7th to February 29th due to concerns about Coronavirus.
On Feb. 5, the Chinese Student Association sent an email announcing the postponement and explaining how this decision was made.
“Before making this decision, we have reached out to several authorities including the Health Center, Oldenburg faculties, and other professors for their opinions regarding the hosting of the event,” CSA said “After consulting with the Health Center, Dr. Clark suggests that according to CDC’s notice, there is no need to cancel the activity at this point. In addition, several faculty members and performers expressed their willingness to attend the event as usual.”
The email addressed potential concerns about the virus.
“After carefully considering, evaluating, and consulting with multiple authorities, our team had several meetings before making this final decision: although the possibility of contracting Coronavirus is relatively low, no one can fully predict the direction that this is heading,” CSA said.
A few students personally reached out Chinese Student Association (CSA) president Angel Li PZ ’22, regarding the event. Students asked if the event would be canceled, postponed or even broadcast over a livestream. Most of the students who raised these concerns were of Chinese descent.
“Things started to get very serious back in China,” Li said. “We had several meetings to talk about what we should do.”
Other colleges in the United States have taken similar efforts to minimize large gatherings in public spaces due to fears of the coronavirus. The Confucius Institute at Columbia University canceled their Chinese New Year Showcase in January once the World Health Organization declared it a global emergency (Columbia Missourian).
“Several other colleges [did] an online broadcasting of their Chinese New Year celebration,” Li said.
CSA reached out to multiple authorities to get their opinion on the situation. CSA spoke to Student Health Services (SHS), Oldenborg faculty and other professors. Dr. Eric Clark, director of (SHS) stated there was no concern of the coronavirus “up until this point” as of January 30th. Dr. Clark also noted that SHS and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) was closely monitoring the situation.
SHS released an email on January 23 updating students on the nation’s situation.
“The first case in the United States was announced on January 21, 2020. No students, faculty or staff have reported symptoms or have been treated for the coronavirus at The Claremont Colleges,” SHS said.
Student health staff have emphasized that students should not be concerned about the virus spreading on campus.
“They were more concerned about the flu going on here than the virus,” Li added.
Amber Zhou PZ ’22, Director of the Chinese New Year Gala, described how CSA spoke to Oldenborg also regarding the situation. Faculty members of Oldbernborg expressed their supports regarding
any decision CSA made on the matter and would provide any help they can.
“They were not that concerned about the virus as much as they were [worried] about the Chinese student body,” Li said. “I think the Chinese student body, like people who came back from China and saw the beginning of [the outbreak] happen were worried.”
They planned a new timeline of the event postponement off of the timeline of the virus. The virus has a 14 day incubation period, therefore CSA decided to wait 14 days after the original date for the new date of the event to wait and see if any new cases of the virus would be reported in California.
“We got information from other schools as well, so we had to investigate the situation in China and what other CSA groups at other schools decided to do,” Zhou said.
CSA reached out to other Chinese student body groups UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Davis and Columbia on whether events would be postponed, online broadcastor canceled.
“We reached out like daily, and they were [changing their decision] a lot… so that’s why we couldn’t make a decision immediately,” Zhou said.
In addition to seeking external resources, CSA released a poll on WeChat asking if students, parents and any prospective attendants if they would prefer the event to continue, be postponed or canceled. 60% of respondents said they would like the event to be postponed.
“If we had held it on the original date, students would be afraid of the health condition, and they probably would not have shown up,” Li said.
Ultimately CSA decided to postpone the event to stay safe while also making sure the show goes on.
“Chinese New Year is like Christmas for us… it’s a big event, it’s a chance to get everyone in the 5C’s together,” Zhou said. “We decided if 2 weeks or 1 week before they find the Coronavirus to be too bad for us to do it, then we would cancel it… we made a plan B and plan C to see how things go.”
The new event was free of charge, largely due to how dinner was not provided. In the past, traditional Chinese dinner would be provided. However, to minimize exposure to germs, it was ultimately decided to only provide individual, prepackaged snacks. Hand sanitizers and wet wipes were planned to be available at the event.
“One thing that’s good about this postponement is that we have more time to prepare, so we have even better shows and everyone is even more prepared,” Li said.
CSA has been preparing since the middle of December and even winter break to ensure the event goes smoothly.
“We want to emphasize that the coronavirus is very serious back in China, but we don’t want people to associate Chinese student body with the virus,” Li said. “We just want everyone to be safe.”
Image Credit: The Poly Post