Graphic by Meher Yeda
Dorm life, if you are on campus, will look very different this year. Thus far, Residential Services has said the default housing arrangement would be single-occupancy rooms, with an option to choose a roommate and be treated as a family unit.
Carlos Gonzalez, Residential Services executive director and director of operations and services, said in an email to The Daily that spaces within dorms, such as students’ rooms and communal spaces, will be cleaned and disinfected with an electrostatic disinfectant sprayer prior to students’ arrival. All restrooms will be cleaned daily with the same disinfectant; high-touch points, such as elevator call buttons, handrails, remotes, doorknobs, laundry machines and vending machines, will be disinfected on a minimum of an hourly basis from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., according to Gonzalez.
In an email sent July 9, Interim Provost Kathleen Hagerty said students “will receive a kit when they return (to campus) that includes reusable and disposable masks, sanitizer and thermometers.”
In an email sent on July 31, Vice President for Student Affairs Julie Payne-Kirchmeier said housing and dining “will be available with restrictions that align with public health guidelines.” Restrictions mentioned in the email include six-foot physical distancing in residence hall common spaces.
“Students must wear a mask when they are not in their own room; no guests will be allowed in students’ rooms; common spaces will have limited furniture and reduced capacity; and students must observe social distancing when outside of their rooms,” the email stated.
In the event of a positive COVID-19 result of a student living in a dorm or when a student is identified through contact tracing, on-campus students will be moved to quarantine or isolation housing, the email said. Monitoring and meals will be provided. In addition, there is the possibility of needing to quickly de-densify campus, so NU administration recommends students pack “a limited number of personal items.”
With all that in mind, here are some tips for staying safe indoors and making your dorm feel as homely as possible.
How to stay safe in your dorm
One of the best ways to protect oneself from the coronavirus is vigilant handwashing. However, if soap and water are not available, using sanitizing and disinfectant products, such as hand sanitizer, can be an alternative (but should not be relied upon).
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that purchased hand sanitizer contains at least 60 percent ethanol (ethyl alcohol) or 70 percent isopropanol (isopropyl alcohol) as active ingredients. In early July, the Food and Drug Administration announced some imported store-sold hand sanitizers have been found to contain methanol, “a substance that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested and can be life-threatening when ingested.” For the most up-to-date information as for what brands to avoid purchasing, visit their website. For Clorox wipes, if you search on Target’s website later at night, the “in stock” information is typically accurate; making an early trip to the store when it opens the following morning can increase the chances of finding disinfectant wipes when you need them.
Personalizing your dorm room
With most classes being remote in the fall, and especially during the Wildcat Wellness period, it’s likely (and expected) students will be spending more time inside. Students typically like to bring memorabilia from home to make their rooms feel more cozy. Posters, postcards and flags also help express your interests and make the space feel more comfortable. For students with green thumbs or who want a floral buddy in their rooms, the Evanston Farmers’ Market, located at 1800 Maple Ave. from May 2 to Nov. 7, is open on Saturday mornings and sells plants and succulents. Be sure to only venture out in public once you receive a negative COVID-19 test result!
Since the default option is single-occupancy housing, some students will have more square footage to themselves. This change allows for bulkier items in dorm rooms, such as a mini-fridge to store drinks and snacks, a relaxing lounge chair or a yoga mat for exercises, but keep in mind the request for limited personal items. During Wildcat Wellness and into Fall Quarter, it is anticipated that students will have limited or regulated access to lounge spaces, dorm kitchens and on-campus gyms, so having certain items within one’s room can make day-to-day activities more comfortable and convenient.
A typical college student has a stash of snacks in their own room, and stores such as Whole Foods and Target in downtown Evanston are only a couple of minutes’ walk from South Campus. Just remember to arrive at the stores masked, and if you’re not feeling well, it’s the best for the community to hold off on shopping until you’re better. Snack staples include granola or protein bars, trail mix or nuts, cereal, ice cream, nut or nut-alternative butter, chips and, of course, ramen.
As for the dorm amenities that are typically available to students living on-campus, “students should expect restrictions on use of public area spaces such as lounges, fitness rooms and kitchens,” Gonzalez said. If certain communal dorm spaces are made available, he said modifications to expect include “lower occupancy capacities, modified furniture arrangements, reservation processes (and) standards and expectations for use of the space.”
The previous academic year saw the launch of residential areas; each dorm belonged to one of the four spaces on-campus where dorms are located: North, Northeast, South and Southwest. Students had access to certain resources in other dorms that belonged to their area, such as gyms or study spaces. However, for at least the upcoming Fall Quarter, Gonzalez said “that a student will only be permitted to utilize space in the building where they live.”
Programming that is led by Area Leadership Teams, leaders of residential colleges and campus partners is currently “in the planning phase and are expected to be offered virtually, in small groups with physical distancing or in a hybrid format,” Gonzalez said. Residential college lunches are expected to still take place in the fall, and details are expected to come in August, according to Gonzalez.
After the first week of classes, some University traditions and campus activities are expected to take place in a “modified or hybrid format with a mix of virtual and in-person experiences,” according to the July 31 email. Students can “expect weekly virtual and modified in-person programs in common spaces such as in residential buildings.”
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— University announces “Wildcat Wellness,” other pandemic safety regulations
— University to implement single-person on-campus housing; Wildcat Welcome to be “reimagined”
— University provides updates on COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and safety provisions for Fall Quarter