Aztec Nights begins fall events with a virtual twist amidst COVID-19

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Courtesy Photo of Associated Students

Three students get free shirts in Montezuma Hall during one of the Aztec Nights events in 2017. This year Aztec Nights events will also give away free items and food on campus.

by Cristina Lombardo, Contributor

This Fall, San Diego State welcomed students back to campus, but in a different way – mostly online.

As a result, Aztec Nights, the popular free, late-night on-campus events for new and returning students, will be doing their events virtually.

This isn’t the first time that SDSU’s Aztec Nights has shifted to an online experience. In March, they had to shift all of their spring semester events to virtual platforms because of  COVID-19. 

Rather than experiencing the vibrant events on campus, students can still enjoy Aztec Nights directly from their computers. 

Aztec Nights Coordinator, Kevin Araujo-Lipine said that they’re trying to find new ways to engage students for a fun experience, where they can be able to connect to SDSU’s traditions. 

“Since we couldn’t do the traditional walkthrough Hepner Hall or the Howka walk, we did a virtual walkthrough, so that students could kind of see and have an idea of what that would look like,” Araujo-Lipine said.  “So we tried to think about how we could adapt to still be able to try to provide a traditional experience, in a non-traditional way.” 

The first two events of Aztec Nights on Aug. 21 and Aug. 22 had a number of virtual activities and also featured the well-known ceremony of Templo Del Sol, where first-year students are welcomed to campus by walking under the arch of Hepner Hall as a symbol of their transition to college. These activities were varied and gave students different opportunities to feel comfortable while participating. 

We had about four or five different things happening at the same time, to provide different opportunities for our students who wanted to be in a small group setting, more intimate, where they were feeling more comfortable in that setting or also larger settings as well,” Araujo-Lipine said.

From virtual mingles to trivia nights, these events give students a chance to interact. However, some students find virtual events to be a bit discouraging. 

Accounting junior Alison Sandoz attended “Dragstravaganza,” where people come together to celebrate their individuality through drag, which includes performances by drag queens.  She found the event to be an interesting experience compared to previous years.

“I definitely think it was entertaining but felt like a little part of it was missing from the in-person part of it,” Sandoz said. “There’s definitely some disconnect there because you’re used to seeing people performing, and having the energy of a crowd. We had the energy of the Zoom chat but that’s not the same.” 

Student reaction to the start of Aztec Nights on Aug. 29. Because fo COVID-19, Aztec Nights is moving to a virtual platform for the fall semester. (Cristina Lombardo)

Sandoz wasn’t the only one to feel that way. Business marketing junior Jennifer Ly has been to Aztec Nights in the past and also felt that these virtual events needed a more personal touch. 

“Just being in a crowd, it’s super lively, essentially everyone is just gathered around and having a good time together,” Ly said. “It’s probably the environment. I’m still thinking we can still have a good time online but I think it’s more discouraging to join something that’s virtual.” 

Even though students would like more of a personal connection with the events as the remainder of the semester progresses, they do see the benefits of Aztec Nights being online.  The move to a virtual platform provides more possibilities for better production and more valuable connections. 

At Dragstravaganza the production quality afforded by being a virtual event really shined through. Special effects and audience interaction enhanced the performance od those showcasing their drag. Sandoz took note of that since it was her first time attending a drag show.

“The bright side of it being online is the special effects, CGI and it was pre-recorded,” Sandoz said. “I thought that was really cool because you might not get that in-person. Overall I thought it was different from previous years, but I still thought it was very good.” 

Despite being online, students feel like attending Aztec Nights online brings a certain factor of being more connected with others. 

“I still think we can actually make connections, it might actually be more meaningful connections because you’re actually on screen,” Ly said. 

Aztec Nights will be held virtually all throughout the semester from Sept 5. through Oct. 10.

Notable events happening later in the semester include, “Finding Your Inner Kid Marathon” on Sep. 12, “Aztec Nights in The Studio” on Sep. 19 and a lot more. 

Aztec Nights are open to all students with a RedID. For more information about upcoming events, visit SDSU’s Aztec Nights webpage. 

Arts & Culture Editor Devin Whatley contributed additional reporting.

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