Campus responds to new COVID-19 guidelines: Gustavus sets new COVID-19 rules to help brings students back to campus

Thus far, new on-campus COVID-19 guidelines are generally being followed. “{The rules have been followed]very well. I am very impressed with the students on campus,” Assistant Vice President for Student Life, Megan Ruble, said.
In order to maintain everyone’s safety on campus, members of the Gustavus community are now required to wear a mask and maintain a six-foot distance from others, both inside and outside when proper social distancing is not possible. Those on campus are also asked to limit their contact with others and restrict unnecessary off-campus travel. Practicing good hygiene by washing one’s hands, sanitizing personal items and reducing sharing with others is also encouraged.
Students and employees on campus are expected to perform a daily COVID-19 self-screening and report any suspicious symptoms using a COVID-19 reporting form. The Gustavus Health Service is also providing tests for students who believe they may have COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Students that test positively will be contacted and required to quarantine, as will anyone who spent more than 15 minutes within six feet of the infected student, whether or not they were wearing a mask. If students are able to quarantine from home, they are encouraged to do so. If not, there will be alternative living spaces on campus set aside for them.
Despite the safety precautions in place, there are some concerns about everyone returning to campus, as “we could run into alcohol incidents, or people not wearing their masks, or not social distancing, and that puts us at risk… it’s a little nerve-wracking,” Junior CF Brenda deRosas said.
“It’s been going pretty good. From what we can see out in the public, students are wearing their masks. A big concern is [wearing] masks in the residence halls and within their dorm rooms –– we’re trying to keep them socially distanced, while also being social,” deRosas said.
“[In residence halls], it’s been tougher, which is totally understandable, because it’s people in their own homes, essentially. I think that people are trying to remember, and they’re trying to do the right thing, for the most part. Maybe they forget, or maybe they get careless… but by and large, I think it’s going really, really well,” Ruble said.
While the majority of students have been acting in accordance with new COVID-19 guidelines, there have been some issues, “especially on move-in day. Some parents and students chose not to wear their masks or took them off as soon as they got into their building. So we were aware of those situations and kept reminding people to put their masks on. Some students forget or refuse to wear masks in the residence halls, so we remind them to wear their masks in the building,” deRosas said.
“My PA colleague and I talk about it sometimes… basically, when you’re living with a roommate, they’re like your family. When you’re going in public spaces, I think that sometimes we all forget that regardless of whether that’s your roommate or not, you should still be distancing,” Junior PA, Habeke Bekele, said.
There are several stages of warning a student may receive if they do not follow COVID-19 guidelines. If students are reported over social media or anonymously, they will typically receive an informal friendly reminder about campus COVID-19 policies. At a more formal level, if a student is reported by a CF or seen by another student, they will receive a more strongly worded reminder. If a student violates campus rules a second time, there will be a hearing with the student, who will have both educational and punitive sanctions. The higher levels of punishment can go up to suspension or loss of housing privileges, in which the student will be asked to go home and take their classes online if they cannot responsibly live on campus.
“[The hardest part of putting together COVID-19 safety policies has been] not being able to anticipate everything that would come into play. I’ve heard this used by other staff and I think it’s really apropos –– it feels like we’re laying down the train tracks a minute before the train comes. We’re just trying to stay a little bit ahead of things, and sometimes we don’t see things coming, so now we have to plan and pivot for that reality,” Ruble said.
“[Another challenge has been] balancing an appropriate level of awareness and precaution and response without going off the deep end. I’ve been the recipient, within the same day, of an email from one student asking us to please close campus and make the hard decision, and literally two hours later, there’s an email from another student asking why they can’t come back to campus because learning at home is bothering their mental health and family situation and finances… there’s no win there. There’s no way you’re going to be able to meet everyone’s needs, so you try to make the best possible decisions you can, and our leadership I think has been doing a great job with that,” Ruble said.
The impact of COVID-19 can be seen all over campus, but the social aspect of campus life has been especially affected, most notably, in freshman dorms.
“In the freshman dorms… you can really tell that people don’t really interact as well as they used to because if you have your door open, you have to be wearing your mask, or if you’re going to common areas you have to be wearing your mask, and [students] don’t really want to do that since they have to do it everywhere else,” deRosas said.
“Despite not having more than half of all students on campus, I think not having upperclassmen kind of helps [first years] to set their own rules. We were talking in our PA group and with our supervisor Laura Johnson and were coming to a consensus that the first years… haven’t established their niche here, so they’re very much following protocol,” Bekele said.
Returned upperclassmen are also experiencing this reduced social aspect, especially in on-campus apartments, as “everybody has their own space, so they just stay in their own spaces because they don’t have to wear masks. I think that’s the most impacted aspect of the community, the social aspect,” deRosas said.
“Being a PA this year is slightly interesting in that our programming is virtual… it’s kind of hard to see how people are engaging with you because many just mute themselves, or take off their videos and just listen to us, which is nice as long as they are tuning in to listen to some of the awesome things that we have to say, but it’s not that face-to-face or one-on-one interaction,” Bekele said.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, CFs have had to get creative with events.
“We’re hoping to do a lot more socially distanced activities and activities outside with less contact. Another idea we had was pre-packaging activities or leaving them outside residents’ doors, so they can do them on their own, so we don’t have to be bunched up in one area. We know that some people don’t want to participate because they have to wear a mask, so we’re trying to accommodate for that as well,” deRosas said
“Thinking about all students returning to campus can be “scary, especially when you put into consideration that literally more than half of all students are not on campus. I think the Campus Center could get congested when everyone comes back, especially during the first few days. I would love to be optimistic… people do seem to genuinely want to come back. No one can truly force you to do anything, so being proactive and cognizant of what you’re doing is so important,” Bekele said.
“Just don’t forget that the choices you make and behaviors you choose, wherever you are, matter to our community,” Ruble said.