Like millions of Americans, we students have seen our lives turned upside down by COVID-19. As we planned to return to our university campus this summer, the bigger question was: how do we take advantage of the social aspect of the university during a global pandemic?
Over the past few months, we’ve seen many colleges take a strict approach to getting students to follow the rules and mitigate the risk of epidemics on campus, like suspending students to attend a party or ignoring COVID guarantees- 19. But it’s hard to expect us to come back to campus, be locked in our rooms, and not talk to anyone or socialize at all. And punishing college kids for socializing can be harmful and ineffective.
We tried to do things differently at Beloit College, a liberal arts school in Wisconsin. And while our state is a coronavirus hotspot, we have (so far) avoided disaster.
Our faculty and administration realized they didn’t experience campus life the same as students, and telling students not to party or ban everything wouldn’t be safe – nor realistic. Instead, it would lead to gatherings that would be top secret, unregulated, and likely take place indoors, without masks.
They understood that students needed to be part of the process to help redefine expectations on campus. This is where we came in.
Starting in June, the two of us, as leaders of the Beloit Student Government, and a group of other students got down to business. We had honest conversations about how and where people would have social gatherings and parties, rather than pretending it didn’t happen at all.
The group included student representatives from various aspects of campus life – including Greek life, athletics, resident assistants, clubs and more – to help ensure a trickle down effect for all members of our body. student.
The result was a statement of student culture, along with an addendum with detailed behavioral expectations for campus life. It describes how we, as students, can mitigate the risk of COVID-19 while continuing to organize gatherings, participate in activities, drink, travel and even go out together.
As an example, while parties are traditionally held indoors, our guidelines state that all gatherings should be outdoors as much as possible and allow for physical distancing. The college even created outdoor gathering spaces, complete with tents and heat lamps, to meet these recommendations.
It is also the responsibility of the party host and guests, whether planned or impromptu, to model the College’s COVID-19 protection practices and encourage them to follow them. These include occupancy rules, making sure drinks are not shared, and staying six feet away when you remove your face to eat or drink.
In clubs, organizations, meetings, and other large social gatherings, contact tracing should take place – and a plan should be made to ensure that large groups of people do not enter or exit the space by same time.
We’ve also included tips on other activities that are frowned upon during these times of social distancing.
For example, while continuing to see friends and relatives who live off campus is allowed, students recognize that they expose themselves to a certain level of risk and should adopt protective practices as much as possible to ensure health. others.
Some errors have occurred. If a student does not play by the rules, we hold each other accountable. We tell ourselves when another student breaks our protective practices and makes us uncomfortable. Sometimes it can also mean reporting another student.
But we know that our college – and other institutions – can only function in person if all members of the community are invested in creating a culture where you follow the rules.
We’ve been fortunate to be on campus, with a mix of in-person and online classes, since September, when many college campuses across the country remain closed. And we believe our efforts have been one of the main reasons our campus has remained open.
As we are seeing spikes in COVID-19 across the country, and particularly in Wisconsin, we are reporting very few or zero new positive COVID-19 cases per day. Our comrades are really attentive and do everything possible to ensure the safety of everyone.
Much of it lands on our shoulders. The behavior of each individual has the potential to negatively impact the entire community.
This is why the fundamental tenet of this initiative is “personal care is community care” which means that we must take care of ourselves individually by wearing masks and social distancing, among other protective guidelines. .
When we do this, we are protecting ourselves and the whole community.
Hopefully we serve as a national example for other schools of how middle school kids can still be kids, even during a global pandemic.
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