Living on campus during a pandemic

As the fall semester comes to an end and all those who ventured to campus for the semester head home, I have some thoughts on my experience living on campus during a pandemic. And if you’re currently debating whether you should return to campus in the spring, my opinions may be beneficial for you to hear.

Living on campus this semester was definitely a weird experience — not being allowed to enter other buildings or even other peoples’ rooms in your own residence hall, taking  a majority of your classes from the common room table, spending way more time than usual in the room with your roommates, the list goes on. While some of this was  annoying at times, overall, I didn’t mind knowing it was helping to limit the spread of COVID-19 cases on campus. Not being allowed to visit your friend a floor below can be a bit of a pain, but knowing you have a lower chance of contracting COVID-19 while away at school — and bringing it back to your home — is worth these little pains.

I have to give the University props for many of the protocols they put in place to help limit the spread of cases on campus. When I talk to people from other schools, especially big state schools like UConn, they are honestly a mess. At UConn alone, there are five entire dorm buildings that are quarantining,  with over 540 students having tested positive for the virus, according to the Hartford Courant. As someone from Connecticut, I know a large number  of people who attend UConn, and hearing these numbers and their updates are insane to me when I compare them to how the St. John’s Return to Campus Task Force (RCTF) has responded to the pandemic. The team is doing a great job controlling the cases on campus — and yes, I do acknowledge that as a tiny private school this is a much easier feat than at a large school like UConn. Regardless, hearing stories like this makes me feel content about the protocols St. John’s has put into place to combat the spread of the virus. 

Testing-wise, I think St. John’s has been up to par. On an almost weekly basis, I get an update that either myself or someone that I am directly living with has tested negative for the virus. This reassurance makes me feel confident and safe.  Additionally, all resident students must be tested before they are sent home for the rest of the semester, so again, I don’t need to worry about bringing this virus back home to my family. 

TORCH PHOTO / Brenden Willisch

My one major complaint from this semester involves the dining hall. The way they are conducting indoor/take-out dining is disrespectful to students who may feel hesitant to eat inside because of the virus. In order to take food out of Montys, you have to use  a meal-exchange swipe and then you are only allowed to take food from one station out, which means if you want some vegetables from the gluten free station and chicken from the grill station, you’re out of luck; you’ll only get to eat your one piece of chicken for a meal. As someone who is paying to have a meal plan and eat at the dining hall, I should be allowed to eat what I want without restrictions or without being told that I have to eat indoors even if I do not feel comfortable doing so. These are unprecedented and stressful times and the University should be helping students — making sure they are actually eating and feeling comfortable doing so — not stressing them out further and hindering their access to meals. 

Other students have expressed similar sentiments, and Scott Lemperle, Executive Director of Conference & Auxiliary Services told the Torch that, “the reopening of Indoor Dining within NYC, Montgoris Dining Hall returned to its normal indoor dining model as an “all you care to eat” location, with all the all the NYC interim COVID-19 related guidelines in place,” and that “Dining Services also allows students to take-out up to three meals per day at Montgoris Dining Hall which is part of a newly developed meal exchange program at the dining hall.”

Besides the tremendous issues with the dining hall, St. John’s really has done a good job making our campus a safe environment and slowing  the spread of COVID-19. So, if you are debating whether to return to campus next semester, I would say do it. As long as you have your friends here with you, though it may be a little boring at times, it will overall be a good semester. You only get so many years of college, enjoy them — to the best the circumstances will allow — while you can.