Penn State announced on June 14 that on-campus learning will return for the fall 2020 semester. This also means a return to on-campus living, which will operate with rules in place to keep students and staff safe amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
According to Penn State's website, the university plans to sanitize “high-touch” surfaces and high-traffic areas, such as the residence halls every day. Also, residence hall bathrooms will be sanitized twice daily, and room and board rates will be adjusted due to the on-campus learning period ending on Nov. 20.
There will be no more than two residents per room in order to limit contact between students, according to the university. Guests will not be permitted in residence halls.
Additionally, immunocompromised and at-risk students will be given first priority for single room requests, and all roommate requests will be honored.
Students will be required to wear masks in the residence halls, including in the bathrooms, except when showering or brushing one’s teeth.
All lounge and common areas in the dorms will be closed initially and be rearranged to promote social distancing. Elevators will be closed, except for in special circumstances, and stairwells will utilize one-way traffic.
Kristin Sickau chose to live on campus in the fall rather than lease an off-campus apartment because she worries Penn State will “transition to remote learning in the first few weeks of the semester” and does not want to get “stuck” in a 12-month lease agreement.
Sickau (graduate-engineering science and mechanics), who will live in White Course Apartments next semester, is worried Penn State has not taken necessary precautions to keep on-campus housing safe.
“They’re certainly making an effort to keep students safe by limiting capacity of common areas, offering single rooms to immunocompromised students, cleaning bathrooms more frequently, and offering more take-out dining options,” Sickau said via direct message. “However, I have not seen concrete plans for some of these operations.”
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Sickau believes the student body is simply too large to be able to offer takeout options for everyone. Even if bathrooms are cleaned twice a day, she argued, several students will touch surfaces before they are disinfected.
“Incoming freshmen are expected to share a tiny dorm room with a complete stranger, who may or may not be from a COVID hotspot and/or may not be wearing a mask/socially distancing,” Sickau said.
Delany Greczyn is also planning to live on campus next semester. She said she thinks the university is trying to keep students safe.
“I think that Penn State has taken the general steps to keep housing safe next year, although it seems as there is no way for them to enforce the rules that they have set up,” Greczyn (sophomore-sociology) said.
Greczyn said she is not nervous about returning campus because she’ll try to keep herself safe. She said she is more nervous that her peers will be "careless."
“I lived in Martin last year, and I think that renovated dorms won't have a problem social distancing because there seems to be more space for people to move around, as well as the fact that there are individual bathrooms,” Greczyn said. “I think the unrenovated dorms with smaller hallways, common areas, elevators, and bathrooms might have more difficulty social distancing.”
Shawn Bessey believes the university is doing everything it can to keep people safe. That being said, he has doubts as to how it will be able to enforce social distancing measures.
“I think social distancing in dorms is going to be close to impossible, especially if you’re living with friends that you haven’t seen in 5 months,” Bessey (junior-risk and security analysis) said.
However, Bessey is not nervous about returning to campus in the fall semester.
“If anything I’m more anxious to get back to campus to see my friends and get the college experience again,” Bessey said.
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