By Nickie Hayes
A pandemic like COVID-19 is something that constitutes a great feat for community advocates and community directors who are trying to create new programs for students living on campus.
Samuel Rivera, a senior nutrition major with a minor in chemistry, is a CA for Mason Hall. He said because of COVID-19, he has not had as many opportunities to connect with residents since the start of this semester.
Rachel Green, a sophomore education major concentrating in English, lives in Hood Hall. She said that CAs, CDs and staff have tried to make everything feel as normal as possible.
The programs in each hall vary depending on what the CDs and CAs come up with in team meetings and through brainstorming sessions. In Mason Hall, CAs have done virtual events. However, they have made it interesting by doing karaoke, trivia and a photography bingo.
Photography bingo was the first activity of the semester in Mason that was not fully online. The students went around campus, taking pictures and figuring out the clues of what places they had to find. Rivera said it was like a scavenger hunt bingo.
“We are just trying to make some of living on campus resemble what it normally is,” he said.
Rachel Gamache, a second year graduate student, working toward her masters degree in speech language pathology, is the CD for Kent and Macomb hall. In Kent and Macomb, they have made a semester-long Olympic Games program for their residents.
Specific to Kent and Macomb Halls, each activity within the program a student attends, participates in, or possibly wins, earns a certain amount of points. The point system in their program model allows for students to win larger than normal prizes at the end of the semester.
Some of the programs will be held in person and outside. They will follow the campus guidelines like social distancing. Programs held in person and inside are regulated by the set maximum occupancy for the area, and there is a maximum of 10 people who can be at a program in general.
Green said in Hood Hall her CA provided an online monopoly program for her and the other residents, and the basic floor meetings have also been online.
Rivera said this year, they do not have a spending budget for their programs, like they usually had in past years because of COVID-19. He explained that it is on a per-request basis. Gamache said there are resources on campus that CAs and CDs can use when creating their programs that have been previously purchased in the past as materials.
Green said because she is in a suite, she can still have normal interaction with the four other students, and it makes residence life on campus a little easier. The main difference for her from last year to this year overall is to be more mindful.
When in the dorm rooms, students have the ability to take off their masks, but as soon as they leave their dorm, a mask must be worn. All COVID-19 campus wide protocols must be followed as well.
In the common areas of the residence halls, students are asked to wear their masks, social distance and not eat.
When it comes to enforcing the new regulations, the CAs and CDs are taking these precautions seriously.
“We came down with the hammer in the first week. In the instances of someone not wearing a mask, they had an immediate judicial write-up, just to set the tone right away,” Rivera said. “If you want to be on campus, this is what you have to do.”
Both Rivera and Gamache said they have not had any trouble regarding students safety due to others not following the proper COVID-19 regulations.
Green said there is an abundance of signs and posters all over the building reminding students of the new protocols. She said some of them are appealing to look at, while also providing other important COVID-19 information for students.
The adjustment period when moving back on campus can be difficult in itself, but now with the new world students are currently living in, it can be much more difficult.
Gamache said she feels students have been adjusting well and are finding ways to interact, along with meeting new people while still social distancing.
“The overall atmosphere on campus is as positive as it can be right now, but it is definitely not what I have experienced in the past three years,” Rivera said.
Against all odds, students are still doing their best to enjoy their time on campus this semester. They are just happy to actually be on campus.
Green said that she is still delighted to be on campus because she can be with her friends, and is able to be on her own and do her thing.
Rivera’s concerns for this semester are to make sure people’s mental health are OK because the isolation that comes with being on campus can be overwhelming. He said he is trying to be the person whom his friends or residents can come talk too if they are feeling down.
“We are making the best of the situation we are in, and I think a lot of people are trying to enjoy themselves in a safe manner,” Rivera said.
Gamache said one of her goals is to enforce the new policies while still creating a warm and inviting community, take students ideas and implement them the best she can so students are happy with their time here, even if it is a different environment than the students are used to.
“It is not too big of a change, we’re all still here,” Gamache said. “We really just have to be thankful for that, and find the happy parts in that situation.”