Returning to campus is always a fun and exciting yet nervous and chaotic event, and this year was no exception. With the early closure of campus last semester and the uncertainty of each day, it is a relief simply just to see everyone in the same place once again. Of course, there have been many changes that needed to occur to get us to this point. As we have gone through the first few weeks, there are a few changes that have been more significant than others.
Ginger Gaylor, who oversees Student Services, shared that the volunteers that helped with the process were a big part of the success. The move-in process “couldn’t be done without them” she said, stating that they played an important role in assisting new students who are unfamiliar with the many locations on campus. Gaylor shared that social distancing efforts were an important consideration for the move-in process, and will continue to be important as we settle into the semester. During move-in, social distancing efforts included a drive-through move-in process that involved families receiving paperwork in their vehicles and proceeding directly to dorm halls. This was done in lieu of picking up paperwork at a single location, thus limiting interactions. Another key aspect of a socially distanced move-in was the scheduling of move-in for each student using the Trojan Connect app. This ensured that a set number of people would be on campus at any given time, as well as allowing for as many people to move in simultaneously in all dorms.
When asked about his experience with the move-in process, junior Michael Nowka simply responded that “It went smooth.” He mentioned that he had an hour to drop things off in his dorm and was able to come back later to set things up and settle in. This may not have been the case for other students; Nowka did say that he was on an E-Sports team and moved in early, so he had more accommodations in getting his dorm situated.
With some time gone by, it seems that concerns about returning to campus have changed. Around campus, there was initial hesitation with necessary changes to allow us to return to DSU. That hesitation has been washed away with the realization that we are here and have officially made it back to campus.
It is important to understand our situation moving forward, and Michael offered more of his experience. “Online learning is more difficult,” was his takeaway from the changes since March. Not wearing a face mask, not social distancing; the biggest issue is coming to campus but being subjected to an online class load. In the interim as a stop-gap measure, these online classes are understandable, but it is going to be critical for every institution of higher education to develop a thorough plan to fully return classes to the classrooms.
Another noticeable change has been the added dining options. Considering that wearing a face mask while eating is impossible, social distancing in these areas is critical. As a result, more area for seating was made available. Additional locations for getting a bite to eat have been set up around campus, too, allowing additional social distancing as well as faster service. Anyone who has even walked through the Trojan Center will have noticed each table is adorned with new signage indicating social distancing policies. Along with those seen on the tables are the many others, including designated entrances and exits from each building. The signs, however, are not as much of a discussion point as the masks and hand sanitizer. The school-provided hand sanitizer seems to have caused a bit of a stir among students as it was something given out while moving in. The container and contents seem to resemble that of a bottle of water, though I am reassured that appropriate labeling is in place and the contents of these containers have been properly explained.
Given all the changes that had to take place for a return to campus, the process seems to have been similar to any other year. Yes, we haven’t gotten to see as many smiling faces, and the smell of sanitizer is ever-present, but the same feeling of excitement can be seen all over campus; just accompanied by a bit more anxiety and nerves than usual.