As the Department of Residence Life wraps up the final days of dorm and apartment move-in, Aggies are learning to adjust to campus life in the midst of a pandemic.
In order to protect on-campus residents, ResLife has taken many safety precautions and created new rules and regulations that encourage social distancing and frequent sanitary procedures.
These rules include limited capacity in dorm common areas such as kitchens and TV lounges, required social distancing, wearing masks everywhere except for the student’s room, self monitoring for symptoms, allowing only one guest per resident at a time and no overnight visitors, said ResLife Director of Administrative and Support Services Carol Binzer, Ph.D.
“These rules were created with lots of research and lots of consultation,” Binzer said. “In fact, campuses around the nation have been looking to us because we’re one of the larger housing operations. Everybody is doing the best they can with the information they have.”
In addition to these rules, Binzer said ResLife has a cohesive plan in the event of an outbreak in the dorms.
“When a student gets sick, they and any roommates would have to isolate themselves,” Binzer said. “If their hall has a shared bathroom, the sick residents will be moved to specially designated COVID-19 isolation rooms with personal bathrooms. These rooms are located in all areas of campus so residents would not have to move far from their old dorm and support networks.”
While students who test positive will be able to get food delivered to them using their meal plans via the ResLife case management team. This team helps provide necessities for sick residents until they recover from the virus.
If an outbreak occurs within a dorm, that building may be converted into a quarantine facility, depending on the size and severity of the outbreak, as well as the building’s layout and location. The campus and county health departments will also be involved in responding to any outbreaks on campus, Binzer said.
“We have some spaces set aside and should it surge beyond that, I know we have explored some off-campus opportunities to house people,” Binzer said. “We have spun a bunch of different scenarios and are trying to figure out what’s going on and how best to respond to stem the tide of the contagion.”
With all these new rules, the ResLife Engagement, Learning, and Support (ELS) unit, formerly known as Academic Support Initiatives, hopes to continue fostering community, academic achievement and personal well-being in the dorms through modified programs this semester, said ELS manager Sara McCoy.
“The Department of Residence Life is working extensively to ensure the safety and security of our students while still honoring our commitment to community development,” McCoy said. “Residence Life staff will be checking in with students more using electronic means — floor GroupMes, text messages, emails, Zoom hangouts — to make sure the social components are still there even through physically distancing needs.”
ELS graduate assistant Bianca Cerda said students can still take advantage of the Academic Peer Mentoring Program safely via virtual meetings with their residence hall peer mentor.
“Our Academic Peer Mentor Program is still going strong,” Cerda said. “They are going through training to prepare to provide virtual office hours, academic check-ups, collaborative programming with RAs and Peer Panels to help students connect to resources and each other as we navigate this challenging time together.”
McCoy said dorm safety goes beyond physical health and students should be conscious of their mental health throughout this upcoming year.
“Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, no matter what kind of help you might need,” McCoy said. “The Residence Life staff is thoroughly trained to either assist you or direct you to where you can find the help you need. Make sure you take at least one hour a day for yourself to do something you enjoy – read a book, go for a walk, watch something not for class— whatever feeds your soul and is truly for you.”