COVID-19 causes unease about being back on campus

Structure is important to college students. Having a constant schedule of class, school activities and out of school activities is something that most college students aim for. 

A college is a place for finding yourself, getting an education and for having fun. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of this has changed drastically. Rather than being able to have constant socialization, students are now having to navigate college life while maintaining social distancing, wearing masks and following other guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Doing fun activities and trying new and exciting things is an important aspect of college, but the pandemic has made college life a unique and challenging experience. Everyone has a different college experience, but it is a collective understanding that college is meant to be the time in everyone’s life that they get to find themselves.

Returning to or starting college during a time like the COVID-19 pandemic creates a sense of unease among students. With many students not feeling as safe as they should or understanding policies that have been put in place. Days that were once hoped for begin to be looked at with dread. 

One reason for this type of unease is that the new policies and safety precautions make campus life drastically different than it has ever been before. Universities want to provide an on-ground experience with these safety precautions, but also maintain the familiar feeling of college life. However, there are a lot of grey areas involved and the rules are hard to keep track of. 

These safety precautions are important to implement and follow because they prevent the spread of COVID-19 and help students in protecting each other from getting the virus. Their existence makes sense and is backed by science. But, some students are unsure of the specificities of some of the guidelines and the changes that they continue to endure.

With all the uncertainties surrounding COVID-19, providing structure and clear information has become a roadblock for universities nationwide. Many of the biggest complaints about confusion regarding COVID-19 have been about the “risky behavior” policies. CDC guidelines along with state and local mandates have provided a structure that is straightforward in regards to positive cases and exposures, but less so with possible exposures and what justifies a two-week quarantine. 

Students are aware that going to indoor gatherings without masks and failing to maintain social distancing warrants risky behavior, but many are frustrated with the lack of clarity on what the consequences will look like as these situations are being handled on a case-by-case basis. Most students want to be responsible, but still have fun during their college semester and the loose structure of these policies make students unsure of what they can and cannot do.

While many students are following policies, some students have blatantly disregarded them, opting rather to attend crowded social events. On top of feeling unsure about being back on campus during a pandemic, the students who have no regard for the safety of others make this feeling of unease and uncertainty even more extreme.

While the university is clear in its policy of positive cases and exposures, this case-by-case strategy regarding possible exposures could be adding to the level of unease that students are feeling. Some students have been sent home for potential exposure while other students have remained on campus despite attending parties.

Other confusion comes from some students not understanding that on-campus residence halls and off-campus housing, such as the greek houses, do not have the same policies regarding visitors and COVID-19.

The university has started rolling back strict guest policies on on-campus housing while other off-campus housing facilities are left to navigate their own policies with the help of advisors or trustees.

Currently, students are permitted to have up to two guests at a time per each suite in the dorms, with masks and social distancing required. All students who do wish to have a guest that does not live in the building must register them through a residence life guest request.

Although the University is doing its best to implement policies to keep students safe, many students remain in a state of unease or uncertainty due to policy changes and lack of clarity. COVID-19 has brought unprecedented challenges onto Baker University’s campus, but students are still students and there comes a point where the rules in place hide that fact.