Students, residence hall staff explain how life on campus changed during pandemic
All doors on the first floor of Beddow Hall are shut. On the floors above and below, it’s the same deal. Only a couple of people are wandering the halls, but their masks are up with their faces down, not looking for anyone to stop and talk to.
COVID-19 restrictions have changed life on campus in the past year. Fewer people are leaving their dorm rooms or going to classes making it very hard to socialize with others and build relationships.
Despite this, residence life staff members are making an effort to build community.
Jackie Charette is the residence hall director in Larzelere Hall. She's noticed how the halls are less lively than years past. Charette contributes the quiet from the lack of students entering and leaving their rooms due to more classes being online.
“Usually there's hustle and bustle of people in big groups going to class together and just a lot more activity,” Charette said. “And this year it's just looked different.”
Charette said it is more difficult than ever to organize social events, to assist community members in meeting new people and forming new relationships.
While COVID-19 health and safety guidelines make it difficult, resident assistants and other residence life staff members are still holding social events - just in different ways.
“I would say I’m spoiled in my community in that there’s still a pretty strong group of students,” Charette said. “We have about 30 students every week attending our online meetings, so I feel like I'm still getting to see those students in these leadership opportunities and growth. It's just more online.”
Sophomore, Olivia Pozsgay, has noticed the resident assistants and other staff members in Larzelere Hall doing a great job of adapting to the circumstances. Their adaption is evident through the events they hold in the hall and what is advertised around campus.
"They are definitely some of the most determined and motivated students I've seen around campus and they just really want the best for their residents," Pozsgay said. "I think that they've understood that this year is what you make of it so they've all been really good about having that positive outlook on what's going on this year."
Associate Director of Residence Life Alan Jones said the job of an RA has stayed the same for the most part. In some cases, an RA will take on a couple more responsibilities based on the ratio of student to staff member in the hall.
“I've been very impressed with the positive attitudes that they've had,” Charette said. “I think that they, especially my staff, feel personally responsible to make this community a great experience for their residents.”
Students quarantined on campus are getting similar treatment. Even though it is harder for them to stay in touch with people during their quarantine, they still have access to the same resources. These students have phone numbers and email addresses to reach out to staff members who are able to help, according to Jones.
One of the most important things, Jones said, is the relationship between staff members. Hall directors have been there to help resident assistants, especially this year if need be in responsibilities or in coming up with ways to build a better community in the halls.
“It's been a pleasure to watch the (paraprofessionals) use their creativity to still make connections and build community,” Jones said.