“Speaker safety is something that we’ve had to worry about for a lot, a lot longer than just Covid times where people have, you know, tried to assault our speakers and throw things at them and everything else,” said YAF’s Brown. “So thankfully, we have a pretty good plan for that.”
Groups are also considering gathering an audience to a speaker beamed in over Zoom, the default pandemic conferencing app.
“The students on that campus can still experience [an] in-person event, but the guests might be remote just via Zoom and take questions that way,” Bryan Bernys, the Leadership Institute’s vice president of campus programs.
The Leadership Institute has similarly transitioned its activist lecture events to Zoom conferencing. In addition to the normal slate of seminars, the group has also integrated programs and events teaching how to hold socially-distanced events during the pandemic.
The biggest obstacle, however, might not have anything to do with social distancing — but how to keep students engaged in activism, or even in the local chapters, when they’re studying from home. Across the country, many students are opting to take time off school to wait out the pandemic, and conservative students aren’t immune.
“That does have an impact on your activist base and cultivating relationships,” said Bowyer, of Students for Trump. “If the bodies that were there one semester aren’t the same ones that come back the next semester, it’s like kind of retraining and reorganizing.”
The situation for every conservative activist group, from local chapter to nationwide organization based out of Northern Virginia, remains fluid. But Brown argued that such a situation appeals to conservative ideology.
“I think it’s one of those things that actually kind of fits into what we would be [doing when] advancing ideas on campus, which is this idea that a universal plan is not going to work well for everybody,” said Brown. “We obviously as conservatives prefer smaller units of decision making and more localized control.”