While most students currently on campus will leave by the start of Thanksgiving break on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 316 students have been approved to stay beyond the start of the break. According to Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Whaley, 172 of those students will stay until the end of the fall semester, Sunday, Dec. 13, while the remainder will stay on campus until the beginning of the spring semester on Feb. 9.
“[For most students] staying through Thanksgiving until the end of the fall semester…there was some difficulty with engaging in academic work from their home, wherever their home is,” Whaley said. “It could be that they’re from far away, and so the asynchronous nature of doing the last bit of work for the semester in a different time zone would be problematic, or perhaps just their home situation is not conducive to being able to concentrate and study and so forth. That group will be leaving at the end of the fall term…and then the remaining students have asked to stay right through, right straight through until spring.”
According to an all-campus email sent by Dean of Students Rick Culliton on Nov. 19, the last day of on-campus COVID-19 testing before Thanksgiving break will be on Tuesday, Nov. 24. Testing will resume Dec. 2 on a reduced schedule on Wednesdays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Students who have been approved to remain on campus over Thanksgiving break, along with faculty and staff that will still be coming to campus, will need to be tested weekly starting on Wednesday, Dec. 2.
The petition process for students wanting to remain on campus over winter break was similar to the one used in the spring semester when campus was first closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The class deans reviewed all of the requests that came in,” Whaley said. “And then Academic Affairs also reviewed any students who were requesting to stay for academic reasons and so forth, so it was a similar process, although we didn’t have to invent it on the fly, we simply improved the process that we utilized last spring.”
Of the students approved to remain on campus for the entire winter break, 80 are F-1 visa students, according to Director of International Student Services Chia-Ying Pan. Eighteen other F-1 visa students will remain on campus through Thanksgiving break until the end of the fall semester.
Some students remaining on campus will need to relocate to another housing assignment by Thanksgiving break, according to Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residential Life Frances Koerting. The students who will be required to move are currently living in houses where only one or two students were approved to stay over break.
“Students who have been approved to stay beyond Thanksgiving who live in wood frame houses, the Butterfields, International House, Fauver apartments and High Rise will be able to stay in their current assignments,” Koerting wrote in an email to the Argus. “All others will need to relocate, and have been assigned to a vacant single room in the Butterfields.”
Over the winter break, Freeman Athletic Center will be available for student use, along with library facilities. Though exact hours have not yet been decided, Whaley explained that the University believed it was important to have certain services available to students staying on campus.
“We thought it was really important for students in terms of wellness and their health, to have some services available on campus,” Whaley said. “We wanted students to be able to have a place outside of their residence to go and to study and to do academic work…. We’re still trying to work out the details on that, so it’ll be a reduced schedule from what it is now.”
The plan for dining over winter break has not yet been finalized, although the University has narrowed it down to two options for students who will remain on campus.
“We’re looking at two options: one would be to continue some meal service through the end of December and through January, where we have staff actually providing brunch and dinner on an ongoing basis,” Whaley said. “And the other option would be for us to give a meal allowance to students who are on institutional financial aid and have them use the grocery shuttle or whatever to buy what they would like and prepare what they would like for themselves. So those are the two options that we’re exploring right now.”
In addition, the University plans to host events for students remaining on campus to connect with one another.
“We realize the break will be very long for this small group of students who will be remaining on campus, and the Office of International Students Affairs and the Office of Residential Life will be planning programs for them throughout the break,” Koerting wrote.
Additionally, Whaley added that the University wanted to help students fight feelings of isolation over the winter break.
“Isolation and feelings of loneliness can be really hard at this at this time of year, and especially with fewer students on campus, so we want to try to make those connections,” Whaley said.
Whaley emphasized the importance of continuing to follow the University’s COVID-19 guidelines for students who will remain on campus over the break.
“We will have an expectation that students who are staying on campus in addition to being tested once a week, that they will continue to abide by the COVID agreement that we have that we’ve had all semester,” Whaley said. “Those safety precautions will still be in place as we go through the remaining weeks of the semester, and through the winter break to the spring term.”
Jiyu Shin can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @jiyu_shin.