The university's #IPledgeColumbia campaign has been signed by over 7,000 students, professors and Columbia residents, according to Student Body President Issy Rushton.
Just a few months ago, Rushton worked with the Future Planning Group to create the #IPledgeColumbia campaign to promote student awareness of their responsibilities to help prevent and put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The campaign sent postcards, videos and other messages to students about how things were going to look different on campus this year. The money for the campaign came from the university's communications budget. The memos sent to students asked them to pledge to follow the public health guidelines.
“I think the #IPledgeColumbia campaign has really helped set student expectations and standards of what this semester was going to hold,” Rushton said.
The university plans to expand the campaign’s outreach.
“Now we’re actually working with one of our journalism school campaign classes to actually enable further students to be involved and develop further messages,” Rushton said.
The campaign has been taken on by a campaign class taught by Kelly Davis, a professor in public relations. The class is still in the process of brainstorming the future of the campaign. Hannah O’Toole, a fourth-year public relations student who also worked on #IPledgeColumbia over the summer, is taking Davis’ campaign class.
O'Toole said she has seen the campaign develop from the beginning and now sees how the changing situations on campus have impacted the pledge.
“We're really having to adjust based on what COVID looks like now because, obviously, when we created this campaign in March, it was a lot different than what COVID looks like now. So, we’re really hoping to hone in on what students see as issues now and use that to kind of create a marketing strategy and a communication strategy for the rest of the semester and, hopefully, for the rest of the year," O’Toole said.
Out of the over 7,000 people who signed the pledge, the majority were students. As of Sept. 17, there are 33,380 students at USC.
"We hadn't expected it to go as well in the beginning. We thought with students being remote from campus they'd be less likely be involved. But we were really excited when we got the numbers back and saw how invested people were in the campaign," O'Toole said.
Members of Student Government have created multiple avenues of connecting with students, and the #IPledgeColumbia campaign is one example. Other initiatives Student Government has been taking are the 6FTCloser initiative and the 1801 Live podcast.
Student Body Vice President Hannah White talked about bridging the gap between students and their leadership.
“Whatever initiative, I plan on making sure that there are student leaders at the table," White said. "So not only bringing them to the table to see what they're wanting, what goals that they have for their organizations, but also to make sure that they are the ones that are marketing what they are dealing with within Student Government because, again, Student Government should be with the student body, and it should advocate for what the student body wants."
For the future, O'Toole said she is excited to get "fresh eyes" on the campaign.
"I'm just excited to see what a new student perspective is gonna get on it," O'Toole said. "And kind of get a more generalized student opinion on what they think the COVID response should be from the university and be able to bring that into the mix."
Editor's note: Hannah O'Toole is a member of the Board of Student Publications and Communications. The Board of Student Publications and Communications serves as the publisher for The Daily Gamecock. Student appointments to the board are made by the student body president with a majority vote from the Student Senate. Also, the 1801 Live podcast is a Garnet Media Group podcast.