This year presented a variety of new challenges in regards to freshman move-in due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was different from last year in that there were two separate move-in days on Thursday, Aug. 20 and Friday, Aug. 21, with two separate two-hour time blocks that students had to sign up for. The blocks were spaced out in order to minimize the amount of interactions families had.
Prior to move-in, all students had to submit a negative COVID-19 test in order to come onto campus, and upon arrival, students and their two helpers had their temperatures taken. Buildings had designated entrances and exits to prevent different move-in groups from crossing each other.
David Stuebing, Director of Residence Life, talked about how “all of this was to minimize any opportunity for transmission should someone have the virus and not know it.” He discussed how this was a small part of the larger Return to Campus Plan, which was formed in collaboration with Campus Security, the Emergency Response Team (ERT) and Residence Life.
Stuebing went on to say that “careful thought was put into how we could mitigate any identified areas of risk.” He mentioned that as a result of this careful planning, families felt comfortable and at ease with the move-in.
The instituted protocol made it very clear that safety was a top priority and as such should continue to be taken very seriously by all people on campus.
The orientation experience for incoming students was exciting in its own unique way. Virginia Wesleyan’s activities council, Off the Hook, hosted a variety of fun and engaging events for the incoming freshmen. In addition to a movie night, laser tag and an online trivia night with monetary prizes, there were opportunities for students to build their own stuffed animal and plant their own mini bamboo or succulent.
Elaine Robbins, one of the six Off the Hook event supervisors, explained, “as an Off the Hook employee, I enjoyed planning and putting on the programs throughout orientation because I think that the activities are a meaningful part of freshman orientation.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were obviously some restrictions on what was allowed to happen and what was not allowed to happen. Robbins emphasized that social distancing and mask wearing were both required factors that the Off the Hook team took very seriously.
All of the events had capacity limits, and there were social distancing markers at the doors directing students and preventing large clusters. Robbins thinks that “in spite of the coronavirus, we as a campus community at Wesleyan were able to kick off the school year and welcome the freshmen in a positive and hopeful way.”
Freshman Jack Palmer said COVID-19 definitely impacted his experience at orientation, saying,“Obviously it made it more difficult, but I was still able to meet new people and create new friendships and become involved with the campus community. You have to address that it made it more complicated but it’s still been enjoyable.”
Although COVID-19 has created a variety of new challenges, our Wesleyan family was still able to create a positive and friendly atmosphere.
Move-in for the rest of the school happened on Sunday, Aug. 23. There were four two-hour time blocks that students had to register for to prevent large group interactions and minimize exposure between families. Roommates were not allowed to move in at the same time block, and the number of students moving in per floor was limited.
As with the new freshmen students, Stuebing emphasized how safety was a top priority with the regular and transfer students’ move-in as well. Speaking on behalf of Residence Life, he said that “we expect them [the students] to partner with us in protecting each other from exposure to COVID towards our shared goal of in-person instruction for the full fall semester.”
He expressed how grateful the faculty and staff at Virginia Wesleyan were for everybody having largely followed the new rules and regulations thus far. However, complacency will be the school’s worst enemy as people become more comfortable with their Wesleyan home.
Students must ensure that they are all doing their part to protect ourselves and preserve our community despite the drastic changes to our usual fall semester.