Since the beginning of interterm, Baker University residence halls have not been allowing any guests into student rooms in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. However, on March 2, the guest policies relaxed to allow two guests into student dorms.
“We’ve been hearing from many students that they want guests in their room,” Director of Residence Life and Conference Services Nick Goodman said. “And it’s always been my intent and desire to let people have guests. I don’t enjoy clamping it down, but it’s the unfortunate reality of the situation we’re in.”
When COVID-19 wasn’t a concern, the only thing that had to be considered was the individual rooms’ fire codes. However, with the pandemic, Goodman has been working with Dean of Students Cassy Bailey and the university’s COVID-19 task force to help determine the best way for students to stay safe.
“I have the power to suggest things and try to shape policy, but I don’t necessarily make them. In the case of this guest policy, I do not unilaterally say this is the policy,” Goodman said. “So right now, it’s up to two guests per suite. That’s to help maintain physical distancing as best as possible. And if there’s an outbreak for any reason, then we can try to contain it because there’s little contact.”
However, this isn’t the first time the policy has changed since the semester has started. There have been adjustments made throughout the school year to see what works best for the student body at any given time.
“The very first notice to clamp guest numbers back down was about a week before school started back in August, give or take,” Goodman said. “Then on September 4th, we gave students a week’s notice before that when the policy changed the first time. It was basically a carbon copy of what we’re doing right now.”
However, there are some concerns about opening up the residence halls again to guests. Numbers are currently down at Baker, but that is because the guest policy had been back down to zero.
“We’ve seen the consequences in the past,” Goodman said. “Back in September, when we opened them back up, our numbers went back up and the number of quarantines went back up.”
With this in mind, there’s also been an amendment to try and prevent a similar, rapid spread of the virus throughout student housing.
“This time around, we have to have less than five residential quarantine cases for the policy to remain in effect,” Goodman said. “The number is five because, looking back at data, if it was more than five, the cases were a lot more than five. We’ve made it variable, so if we have too many quarantine cases, we’re going to shut it back down.”
But Goodman reminds students that this is only going to be possible if the students are willing to cooperate with one another.
“I asked that people take personal responsibility and do their best to adhere to policy. If we abuse it, then our cases are going to go up and we’re going to lose it again,” Goodman said. “It’s not something I want to do, but we have to do it together when we’re in a community environment for the greater good.”