Students move on-campus after months at home


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Willard Residential College, a residential building for undergraduate students. First- and second-year students began moving into dorm buildings on Jan. 4.

Hannah Feuer, Reporter

As of last week, Medill freshman Jimmy He had never set foot on campus. Aside from one small New Jersey meetup, he’d never met any of his classmates in-person.

But after months of waiting, He finally moved into his dorm on Jan. 4. He met his roommate, who he’d been video-chatting every week since August, in-person for the first time.

“It felt pretty surreal,” He said.

Students moved into on-campus housing Jan. 4 – 8, with precautions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The move-in was emotional for many students like He, who were disappointed by the University’s decision in the fall to bar most first- and second-year students from living on campus.

University President Morton Schapiro back then cited modeling that indicated “a high probability” of being “forced to shut down the University within 7 to 10 days of move-in.” This time, there was no last minute cancelation. In an Oct. 28 email, Schapiro wrote that the University’s decision to invite underclassmen to campus for winter quarter was based on success in maintaining low COVID-19 positivity rates on campus in the fall.

McCormick freshman Zai Dawodu moved into 560 Lincoln on Friday. While she’s excited to “finally feel like a college student” and said the University is taking appropriate precautions, she’s still nervous about COVID-19.

“I can’t imagine all students will be careful,” Dawodu said.

Several changes were made to the move-in process to allow for social distancing. Prior to arrival, students signed up for half-hour move-in appointments. They were given the option to pre-register up to two guests to help with move-in, and guests were required to leave campus once the half-hour appointment ended.

After their appointments, students were tested for COVID-19 before quarantining in their rooms as part of “Wildcat Wellness,” a mandatory quarantine period from Jan. 3-17.

“Wildcat Wellness” is split into two stages. In Stage A, students must remain in their rooms, and meals are delivered. In Stage B, students are only allowed to leave their rooms for a list of pre-approved essential activities, like getting groceries or buying textbooks. Students must return to their rooms by 4 p.m. and remain there until 10 a.m. the following morning during Stage B.

Students enter Stage B once they’ve received two negative COVID-19 tests. Those who break the rules may face disciplinary action, with responses ranging from a reminder to “separation from the University” depending on the severity of the violation, according to the University’s Wildcat Wellness website.

Communication sophomore Caroline Bates said the quarantine period will be worth it if she can stay on campus. Last quarter, she had already packed for college when the University announced underclassmen wouldn’t be invited back.

“Now that I’ve been like Rapunzel, locked in a tower for 10 months, I’m like, ‘What’s another two weeks?’” Bates said.

Along with dorms, Greek housing also reopened this quarter — though with lower occupancy numbers due to an increased number of deactivations during the Abolish Greek Life movement.

Communication sophomore Dana Small moved into the Kappa Delta house on Tuesday. Since only about 14 people live in the house, she said the small number of people has made her more confident she won’t catch COVID-19.

Jimmy He said he’s looking forward to Stage B of “Wildcat Wellness” so he can finally walk around campus and see the Lakefill for the first time.

“I was very excited to finally be able to have the on-campus experience,” He said. “Being able to hang out distantly is super important to creating a sense of community that just wasn’t present during Fall Quarter.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @hannah_feuer

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