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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

AS reaches out to students in a new way

A graphic introducing COVID-19 IRL. This was the first graphic of the campaign. 

The AS tells students to “MOVE THE F— IN!” in their new campaign to provide students with COVID-19 guidelines.

By Mathew Willoughby

The Associated Students have taken to social media to provide guidelines and resources for students navigating COVID-19.

“It’s not going to get better by ignoring it,” AS Communications Director Hunter Stuehm said. 

The AS launched “COVID-19 IRL,” a social media campaign that uses edgy visual language to provide COVID-19 guidelines to Western students. The campaign bluntly tells students to “MOVE THE F— IN!” in one of their posts and gives students advice on how to do it safely during a pandemic. The campaign also covers topics including telling students to get a flu shot and how to discuss COVID-19 guidelines with roommates. 

The AS chose this visual language and voice so that it was captivating for students, even if they did not go to Western, Stuehm said. 

“We’re trying to create messaging that’s rooted in harm reduction,” Stuehm said. 

The campaign is not about preventing students from going out in-person and socializing, but how to do so safely if they choose to — albeit not recommended, Stuehm said.

Many students are not engaged in public health messaging from Western administration, according to a report from the Whatcom County Health Department. With this in mind, Stuehm said he wanted to create a campaign that would have the feel of a student voice.

Western Public Health Professor Steve Bennet said most students do not have an interest in listening to Western administration.

“I think it was smart for admin to acknowledge that and support the student voices and really facilitate students being able to talk to each other,” Bennet said.

The “COVID-19 IRL” campaign’s content is informed by physicians at the Student Health Center, Stuehm said. 

Third-year Western student Kaitlyn Davidson lives off campus with five roommates and said it has been difficult figuring out COVID-19 guidelines with them. Davidson and her roommates decided on guidelines based on their own research and what others were doing.

“I think that all of us have kind of been on, like, different levels about it,” Davidson said. “So, it’s been kind of hard ’cause there’s so many of us figuring out what is and isn’t OK.”

However, she wouldn’t necessarily seek guidance from an AS post on social media, Davidson said.

“The AS doesn’t feel as much of, like, an authority figure,” Davidson said. 

The campaign posts have seen engagement through likes and shares, showing its effectiveness in reaching young adults in the Whatcom community, Stuehm said.

         The campaign has gained interest from the Whatcom Health Department, Bellingham Technical and Whatcom Community colleges, Stuehm said. Additionally, Bennet said the campaign supports the community at Western as well as other campuses in the county, which he thinks is important.

There are still people in Bellingham not following COVID-19 guidelines, and the campaign is meant to be a reminder to students of what they shouldn’t be doing, Stuehm said.

“We all kind of have to, like, take care of one another and think about one another in a way that is mindful that we’re in the middle of a pandemic,” Stuehm said. “We can all only control our own actions.”


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