Campus Precautions Amid the Pandemic
Cassandra Matthews ~ Assisant Editor
Students at the University of Lynchburg are navigating the news semester with a myriad of new rules and regulations as a result of the pandemic.
Restrictions on campus life increased when the university moved from Alert Level 1 to Alert Level 2 on Wednesday, Aug. 19, after coronavirus cases within the campus community escalated.
B.J. Keefer is the director of Student Engagement and Leadership Development and is responsible for helping students become involved with campus life and hosting several student-centered events. This semester, her team has to come up with events that can be carried out either virtually or safely in person. “We’ve thought of all kinds of things, [like] buying white masks [to decorate]. Everything is running in our heads,” said Keefer.
Seven events had already taken place before Alert Level 2, and Keefer reports that they all went smoothly. She said, “The movie on Shellenberger Field was probably the largest. We had 124 students check in to Shellenberger, and I thought ‘oh sure, as soon as the lights go down, right, everybody’s going to take their mask off,’ and they didn’t. […] We had no issues whatsoever.”
Many precautions are in place at these events. Keefer said, “We’re requiring an advisor [to] be at the event [and] make sure that the guidelines are being followed, and that we’re cleaning, [and] really being consistent with our guidelines.” There are also what Keefer calls “covid buckets” given to event hosts. These buckets hold items such as wipes, hand sanitizer, gloves, and other materials.
As a result of Alert Level 2, the university’s club and organization fair has been postponed. Keefer said, “We were trying so hard to just do everything mask-to-mask and so the idea was we would split it over two days. [We would] have twenty tables on Thursday, have twenty tables on Friday, socially distanced. […] The organizations themselves could only have two people at the table and three guests approaching the table, but obviously when we went to Level 2 we had to cancel anything that was considered a gathering.” Organizations have been invited to take part in a virtual fair this Thursday and Friday.
Going into Alert Level 2 does not mean that all activities have been cancelled. One of the first events to take place after the university shifted gears into Alert Level 2 was a grab-and-go style activity held at the Drysdale Student Center, where students were able to select a live fish and a fishbowl for their rooms.
Shelbi Jordan, a resident assistant in Hundley Hall noted that common areas had been measured in order to determine how many people could be there socially distanced. Now under Alert Level 2, Jordan explained, “we are not allowing any guests in any rooms to prevent the spread [of coronavirus]. We are not allowing any gatherings in the common areas, like the lounges of the residence halls.”
Jordan acknowledged that college life has changed considerably as a result of the pandemic. She said, “When people come to college, they get to have all the experiences, like joining clubs and going to class and speaking with their professors. Especially at a school as small as ours, [students are] able to have those one-on-ones with their professors and form those relationships. […] That’s definitely a lot harder now because professors are not able to have [in person] office hours, and RAs aren’t able to do in person programming because there’s no place that has enough space for all the residents.” Instead, Jordan said, “For our hall meetings, we host those over Google Meet or Zoom or something like that, and then as far as programming goes, [we do activities such as] doing a jeopardy game over Google Meet or doing a Kahoot.”
She also described leaving sanitized arts and crafts supplies out so that residents can bring the supplies to their rooms and work on them with their hallmates over Google Meet. Jordan said, “There’s definitely still stuff that we can do but it’s a lot more difficult to try and have a community while under all these policies.”
The university has prepared for how to handle cases on campus. According to Keefer, it was not a matter of if, but when. “I don’t think we should have ever expected to open and not see cases on campus,” she said. “We are not unique. This is happening everywhere.” Still, she has hope that the situation can be prevented from getting worse. “We have to be vigilant, and we have to hold each other accountable, and we have to be willing to call people out and know that might anger someone, [but do it anyway]. I hope to see us still on this campus in November.”
Jordan agreed, she said, “I’m hoping that we are able to stay here as long as we can.”