LOGAN — Tony Ahlstrom had a goal of completing all six of Utah State University’s True Aggie Nights of the 2019-2020 academic year.
Ahlstrom, a USU senior majoring in communication studies, loved participating in the university’s longtime tradition of kissing someone on the iconic “Block A” statue at midnight the morning of a full moon.
So when the COVID-19 pandemic began to ramp up and USU announced all in-person university events would be canceled for the remainder of the semester, Ahlstrom was devastated.
But to continue the tradition, the USU Student Alumni Association has found a virtual alternative — students will take photos of themselves kissing the right side of a phone screen, send the photo to the person they’d like to virtually kiss, that person will take a photo kissing the left side of the screen and the participants will post the photo on their Instagram story with “#TrueAggie,” and tagging the Student Alumni Association and university at “@USUstudentalumn” and “@USUAggieLife.”
Erick Dickamore, True Aggie Night director in the Student Alumni Association, said the event’s main purpose is to help those disappointed over the lack of in-person events in an already stressful time.
“When physically we cant participate in those traditions, there’s this loss of cohesion and familial feel that is fostered within these type of events at the university,” he said. “In order to preserve some sort of that, we wanted to capture a little bit of True Aggie Night and be able to share that with people.”
Tarren Jessop, Student Alumni Association vice president, added the significance of True Aggie Night — among other university traditions — is to bind current students with alumni and future students.
“I think that memory binds a lot of alumni and students together in that they’ve all had this experience and we’re happy to provide that experience as best we can,” she said. “We’re really excited to offer anything that we could to people grieving over their last event.”
While the Student Alumni Association is excited to watch the night carry out, many doubted themselves when first asked if such an event would be possible.
“At first it was kind of a joke, like ‘haha that would never work,'” said Dickamore.
While the students in charge recognize there will be “some kinks” in the event, they hope word will spread on social media and students who wouldn’t normally participate will do so.
“I think it’s important to still have thing like this where we bring people together and everyone is social distancing,” Dickamore said. “There might be some extra hurdles and even though we can’t get together in person, they still bring people together and remind us of our shared identity as Aggies.”
Jessop agreed, adding the organization expects a variety of reactions from participants.
“I anticipate some people to kind of be silly about it and some people to see it as really meaningful,” Jessop said.
Virtual True Aggie Night is one of several virtual events the Utah State University Student Association has attempted virtually after the university ordered the cancellation of all in-person events due to the COVID-19 pandemic.