Content Warning: This article contains references to eating disorders.



When the University announced that students could return to campus for the Fall 2020 semester, the Pandemic Planning Committee introduced COVID-19 protocols and rules to ensure students’ safety. They redesigned classrooms to allow for six feet social distancing, reordered dining spots on campus to be to-go only, and drew up a contract with the Middletown Inn to create independent isolation spaces for students who tested positive (or came into contact with someone with someone who tested positive) for COVID-19. When students test positive or are close contacts of positive tests, they are required to quarantine in isolation for ten days. 

When students are sent into isolation, the University’s quarantine coordinator Bobby Spignesi provides them with a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about what to expect for their time in quarantine. For dining, Bon Appetit packages meals for students, then University Transportation Services delivers the meals to where the students are quarantining. Despite this planning, students have expressed concerns about the level of support and care for both their mental and physical health during the isolation period. Many expressed dismay that the only social support offered to them were daily five minute phone calls with the Davison Health Center. 

“You can ask them any questions that you have, like chit-chat social interaction, and Tom [McLarney] made a point of listening to me,” Sophia Trombold ’22, who was quarantined with the rest of her Low Rise in the Fall, explained. “But there’s not really the emotional support that maybe would be expected in a situation like this.” 

According to Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) Director Jennifer D’Andrea, there are CAPS services available to those in isolation, delivered virtually using a secure telehealth platform.

“These services include individual psychotherapy, urgent appointments, the after-hours on-call clinician, a variety of groups and workshops offerings, and several psychoeducational webinars,” D’Andrea wrote in an email to The Argus. 

D’Andrea also explained that last semester, each student in quarantine was given a gift bag. According to D’Andrea, each bag included items including individually wrapped candy, art, activities, gloves, and socks. 

“The main purpose of the bags was for CAPS to reach out to students and make a connection—each bag contained information about our services and was hand-delivered to the inn or the campus quarantine location by a member of the CAPS staff,” D’Andrea wrote. “The bags were intended as a gesture to connect with students, so they knew they could reach out to us if they needed support while in quarantine.”

However, Liam Downey ’22, who quarantined at the Middletown Inn in the fall, saw some of the contents of the bags as infantilizing. 

“I got this book, I thought it was a joke from my friends, because one of the first things [it says] is like, ‘Here’s some things you can do: play, dress up, play outside, take a nap, smile or laugh, play with toys or ride a bike.’” Downey said. “Honestly it was very disappointing, very frustrating.”

After receiving student feedback, CAPS changed their approach for the Spring semester. 

“In case other students felt similarly, I decided that this semester instead of hand delivering gift bags, I would send individual emails to students in quarantine,” D’Andrea wrote. “The emails contain information about our services and how to access them.”

Even with these efforts from CAPS, students felt frustrated with what they felt to be a lack of mental health support. One sophomore, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her privacy, recounted that she had to rely mostly on her non-CAPS therapist and friends to maintain her mental health while she was quarantined in the Middletown Inn in the Spring. 

“I didn’t really feel [the school] was reaching out mental health-wise,” she said. “Part of me wishes someone either from CAPS or someone focused on mental health had called me.”

Other students spoke about relying on their own resources and networks in quarantine.

“I’m lucky that I’m an athlete and I have coaches who could reach out and be like, ‘Hey, here’s a workout. Here’s some yoga,’” Downey said. “But if I didn’t have that kind of support system already created, I think I would have honestly gone insane.”

Students also expressed dissatisfaction with accommodations for dietary concerns. Resident District Manager for Bon Appetit Michael Strumpf explained in an email to The Argus that food accommodations such as dietary restrictions and allergies are identified by Davison Health Services prior to the delivery of the students’ first meal.

However, Colleen Carrigan ’22, who was quarantined in the Middletown Inn last semester, expressed frustration that the University sent her food she could not eat due to dietary restrictions. Carrigan highlighted how defeating it was when her dietary needs were not accommodated.

“They never reach[ed] out to me again,” Carrigan said. “They never asked me if everything was okay. I think it’s like really hard to ask for help again, after you’ve already brought it up.”

Some students also found themselves in situations where dining services did not meet the needs of their allergies. Kalli Jackson ’22 explained that when she had her preliminary phone call about food services in isolation, she told dining services that she was a vegetarian and allergic to nuts. For this reason, when Bon Appetit delivered food to her and roommate Nia Lowe ’22, Jackson always knew hers was the box marked “V,” for vegetarian. One night for dinner, the box marked “V” contained cashew noodles, and Jackson had an allergic reaction to the meal. 

According to Jackson, she spent the next few hours vomiting, and when she tried to reach out to various University services for help, she got no response.

“I kept trying to call Davison, because I couldn’t [physically] go to Davison, and I couldn’t leave to go to the hospital,” Jackson said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know what to [do]. I called Davison three times and they didn’t pick up. This was also at dinnertime, so Davison the building was closed, and I called all the [University] emergency numbers. I called the regular numbers. I called the people who call you every day as a close contact. And because it was at night, I guess they were all at home. So they didn’t pick up.” 

Jackson explained that eventually her mom called Public Safety, who were able to bring her to the Middlesex Health emergency room, where she received treatment for her allergic reaction. Ultimately, during her time in isolation, Jackson had to take two trips to the emergency room for her reaction. 

When asked, Medical Director Tom McLarney wrote in an email to The Argus that the incident did not sound familiar to him and his team and that any specifics of any patient case cannot be discussed, as this would constitute a HIPAA violation.

If this happens, one should obviously call 911 (which could also be activated by calling Public Safety),” McLarney wrote. “This is the advice that should be followed if one is in isolation, quarantine, living on campus or living anyplace else. If there was a case in which a student had a life-threatening emergency that was not addressed in a timely fashion and put them in danger, I would want that student to contact me in order to review the specifics of this incident and address any issues so this would not happen again.”

Strumpf also commented on the situation.

“I investigated all the food that was sent to those students quarantined for that meal and that information [from the investigation] was forwarded to Health Services,” Strumpf wrote in an email to The Argus.

Another issue regarding dining was brought up by Trombold, who emphasized the difficulties people with eating disorders face while in isolation.

“Several [people who have had to isolate] have disordered eating and previous diagnoses of eating disorders and stuff like that, and they really don’t accommodate for that because, well, first of all, with eating disorders, a lot of it’s about food control and there’s no food control when a random PSafe officer is dropping off food to your Low Rise door,” Trombold said. 

Even though all the students who talked to The Argus knew that isolating was the best thing they could do for the community, many felt this time in isolation came with costs due to gaps in University planning. Multiple students expressed that they wished that the University was better able to accommodate their needs.

“Every single day, I had a new thing that was like, ‘It would have been nice if they thought about this for five minutes,” Lowe said. “I think for a policy that was set up to protect students, I felt so wildly disrespected. It just seemed like I was being tucked away without any sort of thought on how to upkeep my physical and mental health.”

Lowe also spoke to the problems with the University’s isolation plans for students.

“I definitely think there was just a lack of planning,” Lowe said. “I was nearly in quarantine for half a month. I did not leave this apartment for half a month. And, for me to go through that and that sort of solitude and mental gymnastics every day to deal with not seeing my friends or not being around people, having to eat whatever they give me for them to not put in the adequate amount of planning when I have to deal with that just felt like somewhat disrespectful because I’m losing this time in college.”

Olivia Luppino can be reached at

Hannah Docter-Loeb can be reached at 

Annika Shiffer-Delegard can be reached at

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