Daily file photo by Daniel Tian
In traditional years, residential colleges have kept students out of the Chicago winter with fun activities and long standing traditions. This winter, many residential colleges are struggling to build community among the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last quarter, students gave mixed responses to residential colleges’ online programming. This quarter, the colleges were faced with the additional task of adapting to the return of first- and second-year students to campus.
Communication sophomore Caroline Bates is the president of the Communications Residential College.
Bates said that before the pandemic, CRC would have movie nights, game nights and dorm outings, among other fun events.
“Since it’s all over Zoom, it all kind of feels the same,” she said. “Anything over Zoom these days just has the same ‘meh’ tone to it.”
Bates has organized some game nights over Zoom, as well as virtual firesides where faculty speak to the students. One of the traditions she misses most is movie nights in the two screening rooms inside CRC.
Weinberg sophomore Josh Ezrol, an academic co-chair of the executive board of South Mid-Quads, said SMQ held a lot of virtual events in the Fall such as faculty firesides or more unstructured hangout time. Ezrol said SMQ will have to find a way to effectively cater to students living on-campus once the two-week quarantine is over, as well as students who are not returning for Winter Quarter.
Freshmen coming to campus for the first time know even less about what to expect than in previous years, Ezrol said.
“I think they’re really just excited to be on campus,” he said. “It’s got to be really disorienting to come in in the middle of the year, in the middle of the winter, having already had classes under your belt and then just have to deal with COVID, too. So, we just have to be there for them, we have to support them, give them stuff to do, because it’s got to be very difficult both academically and socially to keep up with all of this.”
Christian Colon, treasurer of GREEN house, and Lucy London, president of GREEN house, said that low engagement has plagued the events they’ve tried to plan.
“Engagement is definitely higher when there’s food and snacks for an incentive to come and also just being with people in person,” London, a Bienen and Communication sophomore, said.
SESP freshman Claire Gardner said the programming in the Ayers College of Commerce and Industry has not been significantly helpful in terms of helping her meet the other residents.
Gardner said there were quite a few virtual events during Wildcat Welcome and the remainder of Fall Quarter, but feels there haven’t been many events this quarter yet.
“It hasn’t really been helpful,” Gardner said. “I’ve met everyone that I have met through just hanging out in the lounges and mutual friends and stuff like that, but nothing through official programming. We even joke that we’ve been making our own programming for the past two weeks.”
Gardner hopes that in the weeks following the Wildcat Wellness phase, more structured activities will be held in lounges and other common spaces such as game nights.
While students are taking advantage of online activities and executive board members are trying to provide fun activities for students, both still miss in-person opportunities and the connections that come with that.
“There’s no amount of welcome signs that will erase the fact that I still feel so unwelcomed,” Bates said.
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— Residential Colleges adapt to a remote quarter with mixed reviews
— Talking to students about their Wildcat Wellness experience