A few weeks ago I wrote that I was ready to send my son off to college. In fact, I was so ready, I was prepared to pack him up myself and move him in earlier than his scheduled date. At the time I wrote the essay, I was more than 100% certain that sending him to college for his freshman year was the right move. Today, my 100% conviction has whittled away to a fraction of what it once was.
The university where my son is enrolled has made extraordinary measures to be prepared during a pandemic, or so I thought. We received an email from the school last week about the specific changes to campus life. The note outlined what is expected of each student. As he read it to us, I watched his facial expression change mid-sentence. His heart, and ours, sank. As he continued reading the detailed rules and policies, I grew apprehensive, annoyed and a slew of other reactions expletives can accurately describe. In a nutshell, the school will be instituting the following policies:
1. No other student, besides your roommate will be allowed in your room.
OK, I get it, however, what if your kid doesn’t know his/her roommate, and they haven’t taken social distancing seriously? What if my kid doesn’t get along with said roommate? What if that roommate is certifiable? I’ve heard horror stories of roommates who were controlling, didn’t shower, wouldn’t allow their roommate to cross onto their side of the room, or the worst of all, the roommate doesn’t agree with you politically.
2. Doors to your rooms must remain closed.
Seriously? Just walking the hallways is an opportunity of meeting someone, even donned with a mask. How will any student be able to meet and get to know each other? I think it would be a reasonable thing to keep the doors open and not allow a visitor inside the actual room and remain in the hallway. Additionally, what does a student do when there is a genuine need to “air out” the room? My son will be in a suite with seven other young men. Eight 18-year-olds inside a suite and they can’t open their doors? The thought of the unidentifiable bodily odors tucked away inside their rooms is enough to send me into overdrive. Wouldn’t it be a reasonable idea for the eight suitemates to set ground rules by agreeing to social distance? Their doors and their on-campus lives would remain open to and for one another.
3. Dining halls are limited to 20% capacity, and most food will be in the form of ‘takeout’.
I can totally get on board with this one, as our family has been taking advantage of take out for the last 4 ½ months as I am not ready for an in-dining experience. For those students who are in a double room, with two beds, two desks, and barely enough room to change their mind, where will students eat? Think #2 and additional odors. Today’s temperature in North Carolina was 101 degrees, and I am not factoring in the humidity. Sitting outside in August really isn’t an option unless you want heat stroke.
4. If a student is one of the lucky 20% to get into the dining hall, they will eat alone, as no one is allowed to eat together.
I have to say, some of my most vivid memories from college took place in the dining halls with friends trying to identify the entree du jour – it was a social activity. Given that there are no social events including getting a meal, this one really stinks. The one and only advantage in this plan is students won’t have to worry about the Freshman 15, as going to the buffet for seconds or thirds will not be an option.
5. The majority of classes will be held virtually.
My son received his schedule and 80% of his classes will be conducted virtually. I am in full support of face-to-face instruction, knowing the value it brings to students. In addition to the learning, it provides unlimited opportunities for collaboration and friendship, yet I am completely relieved my child has one in-person class. A nagging question being replayed in my head is…If the university is providing the majority of its classes virtually, why bring students to campus only to sequester them inside their dorm room?
6. The majority of libraries are closed. The open ones will have reduced operations with limited availability.
Say that again?! The majority of libraries are closed, and the few open will not be easily accessible to students when they need it. The university, the crown jewel of the state universities, known for its rigorous academics is limiting the libraries to its students? How can officials claim the campus is open for business without access to fully functioning libraries? Where will students study – in the dorm with the potentially non-cooperative, odor emitting roommate whose empty “take out” containers are piled high?
7. No parties.
That was a given, from the get go. While I totally get it, I am sad for all of those would-be parties my son only dreamed about. Me thinks that when it is safe to have parties is when it is safe to live on campus.
8. Greek life has been postponed until Spring 2021.
Any reasonable person may ask… if Greek life has been postponed by deeming it not safe, wouldn’t it make sense for on-campus life to be postponed as well?
9. No refunds will be made if on-campus life suddenly has to be canceled.
While I understand that much of the money we shell out for room and board helps keep people employed. While I don’t want to perpetuate unemployment, I am not a business willing to write off a loss. My husband and I budgeted and started putting money aside from the time my son was born. Issuing a blanket statement of no refunds, even if things go south, and trust me, it will, isn’t right. This past week the university athletics department revealed 37 staff and athletes tested positive for COVID. It is only a matter of time for that to happen in a dorm. Is this model setting students up for failure? Isn’t college supposed to be the opposite?
10. All new students and campus/activities for residence life will be held virtually.
Do I really need to say more on this subject?
In my humble opinion the university created an On-Campus Non-Campus Life for its student body, and really wonder if it is worth it. While I trust the university is doing all it can to keep my child as safe as possible, it is at the expense of the total college experience. The pendulum of moving in or staying home will undulate back and forth until we reach the deadline to cancel room and board.
Until then, I will continually ask “Is it too late to change his mind?”