On March 12th, President Foster’s follow-up email regarding Covid cases on campus brought a hopeful message to students. After over a year in lockdown, many students have begun to feel trapped with a routine that involves sitting in front of a computer screen for the majority of the day.
With openings on campus along with flex class options, students were able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. While Foster’s email on Feb. 28th startled students and created widespread anxiety, the email on March 12th helped to not only inform students of the decrease in Covid cases but to create adjustments that can help keep the College on the right track.
The original campus protocol worked well in theory with having the required social distancing and mandatory usage of masks. However, the decision to close off and limit the hours certain facilities are to be used had unintended consequences. Students cannot be expected to simply sit in their dorm rooms or homes every day. While it is essential to follow guidelines to ensure everyone’s safety during this pandemic, it is also important to remember the student's mental health.
Living daily in front of the computer screen without any interaction takes a toll on students and drains them of their happiness. Within the email, Foster announced the expansion of the hours in the Brower Student Center and the Food Court. The Brower Student Center will now be open on Monday and Wednesday from 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM, Tuesday and Thursday from 7:30 AM to 8:30 PM, Friday from 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4:00 PM.
In addition, the extended study area will be open for students within R. Barbara Gitenstein Library. Studying in front of the computer screen alone in a dark room is not ideal for students, especially when repeated constantly. This extended study area gives students the chance to change their environment and avoid being trapped within their dorm rooms while studying.
President Foster listened to and acted on the student requests for an increase in the flexibilities on campus.
Students should feel proud for having responded so promptly and assertively in response to Foster’s previous email. The March 12th email appears to definitely have touched base with the concerns of the students. While the extensions are great, it's crucial to follow the guidelines in place and also the mandatory weekly Covid testing to ensure that even more flexibility can continue to emerge.
President Foster’s email also mentioned Gov. Murphy's executive order 230, regarding new indoor and outdoor gathering limits. This is promising and holds serious stakes in the commencement ceremony. Not much more information was given, but this gives students further hope to continue in the path to regaining some sense of “normalcy.” This embodies the sense of optimism that President Foster described.
Despite the current situation, we are on a path that if we continue to follow will lead to no reduction of restrictions and that will allow every student to have a memorable commencement ceremony.