Prior to Camp Crimson’s 2020 kickoff, some staffers said they feared the time and work they had put into Camp Crimson would go to waste due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Walker Family orientation guide, operations staff of logistics and civil engineering junior Gracie Johnson, the outbreak of COVID-19 caused rumors to circulate there would be no camp at all. Despite all uncertainty, Camp Crimson continued in a virtual format.
Moving the socially-oriented event to a virtual format made Camp Crimson 2020 extremely different from previous years, but the purpose was ultimately the same — to connect incoming OU students.
“(However,) what remained the same and will continue to remain the same is the goal,” Johnson said.
In previous years, Camp Crimson was a week-long event where students would be kept engaged during the day.
“We had activities pretty much throughout the whole day,” former camper and 2020 small group leader Mallory Rasnic said. “There were a few times we would have breaks, (but) they were pretty short.”
The COVID-19 pandemic forced Camp Crimson to adopt a virtual model over the summer, with a week-long orientation program after move-in. The virtual model allowed incoming students to learn more about OU over the quarantine period by providing programming, small groups and spaces where they could chat or play games with incoming students and Camp Crimson staff. This model was created to allow students to enjoy Camp Crimson Welcome Week while following university social distancing guidelines.
Musical theater freshman Megan Walters and meteorology freshman Brandon Booth both said they met up with their small groups in-person in a socially distanced way.
“It was very convenient,” said Walters. “They (really) showed us how much of a family OU is.”
Booth said he enjoyed camp a lot, despite the virtual model.
“My small group was very involved,” Booth said. “We at least had weekly meetings and it was always fun. We had game nights and would be able to talk about information and ask questions.”
Walter also said she enjoyed getting to meet her fellow campers in person.
“We had a few Camp Crimson meetings in person (after school started),” Walters said. “Whenever we did have that meet-up day in person, a lot of people who weren’t that active or weren’t even a part of Camp Crimson were able to join.”
Small group leader and junior health and exercise science and biology major Laurel Wieck said she thought the camp was better virtual, although very different from past years.
However, Wieck said there were “major drawbacks” in participation of the Camp Crimson meetings.
“A lot of my freshmen were working.” Wieck said. “They weren’t really available, and so you don't really feel like you’re as engaging to them.”
Several of the campers agreed there were several issues with a virtual model. Walters said the Zoom sessions were optional, so other campers would sometimes not attend them.
“Sometimes not a lot of people would go, but that’s not always bad because you got more personal time with your (orientation guide) or small group leader,” Walters said.
As a method of orientation, Booth said the Zoom meetings were harder because they couldn’t do the same things they could have done in person to learn their way around campus or learn about on-campus resources.
Freshman nursing major Lauren Gay said it was hard to engage with the leaders over the virtual model.
“It could have been more personal,” Gay said. “But that was hard to do over Zoom,”
Gay only attended the virtual camp meetings. She said they included a lot of helpful tips for freshmen new to campus, but as a whole, the meetings were not beneficial to her.
“The tips were helpful but (the meetings were) not that helpful in introducing me to the other freshmen.” Gay said.
Although a virtual model was difficult, participants said Camp Crimson was still impactful .
“To me, Camp Crimson was my major welcome to OU.” said Weick. “I didn't get my real feel of OU until Camp Crimson.”
Incoming freshmen also found Camp Crimson helpful in introducing them to people on campus.
“We had a community,” Booth said. “We got to hang out when we came to campus and that was nice to have familiar faces and upperclassmen who have gone through what we’re going through as freshmen (to talk with).”
Rasnic said she didn't fully recognize the full impacts of Camp Crimson until after her freshman year.
“I didn't really see it (as a freshman),” Rasnic said. “But once you went back to school, you realized you have more connections then you would have started with without (camp).”
Johnson said in an email the camp added over 4,000 students to small groups during Crimson Welcome Week. She said after that, events were open to all students to sign up for or attend based on the event.
“Yes, this year was rough, and it was trying, and it was never easy,” Johnson said in an email. “But for me, at the end of this, it was so worth it.”