The students left behind in the COVID-19 campus wasteland

Freshman psychology major, Sidney Lacy of Chicago, Illinois who used to live in Prairie Hall continues freshman life in upperclassmen housing. The move was an unexpected transition for Lacy. He had to apply for special permission to stay on campus. Lacy spends his time completing courses online and respecting the social distance policies put in place by University Housing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The few students remaining in University Housing are facing loneliness, uncertainty and overwhelming boredom.

Approximately 350 students were granted permission to remain on campus for the remainder of the semester and are in Evergreen or Cougar Village. 

Residents are struggling to avoid boredom after they finish their coursework. Senior psychology major Tavis Burton, from Granite City, Illinois, has picked up a few hobbies to occupy his time.

“Intense boredom has started to set in and I’ve found myself just throwing a tennis ball at the wall,” Burton said. “Finding things to do is extremely hard because usually you could go out to eat or go to Edison’s and have fun or go to the bowling alley, but now everything’s shut down.”

Burton attempts to pass the time with hobbies.

“Making music is my hobby, but at some point it does get repetitive, and then I start to lose interest and boredom is just attacking me head-on,” Burton said. “I’ve picked up playing guitar. I’ve cleaned the apartment about three times. I’m trying my best.”

While some residents understand the reasoning behind the visitor restrictions, Burton said it adds to his feelings of loneliness and uncertainty.

“When we had our privileges revoked it just felt like I’m a prisoner now,” Burton said. “I mean, I got permission to stay. But, my privileges are being revoked and in many ways if I wasn’t privy to the reasoning behind it, I would feel like I’m being punished but I understand that the less exposure the students on campus have, the greater chance that this pandemic can pass on.”

Senior industrial engineering major Stephen Holdenried, from St. Louis, Missouri, said the new rules make him uncertain if he is allowed to see his brother, who lives in Cougar Village.

“The only time we’ve met is to pick up supplies that I left at his place and bring them to my place,” Holdenried said. “Hopefully that didn’t break the rules, but we only need to do errands, and he has a car, and I don’t have a car.”

The amount of space students have in Evergreen created another challenge for Holdenried while he learns how to cook in the dorms.

“It’s very difficult because I’m in one of the places where they give you the mini fridge, so I have to be very conservative with space,” Holdenried said. “Sometimes because I packed it too full I find my carrots frozen. It’s kind of difficult to learn how to cook with only one pot without a top on it. I’ll make those potatoes someday.”

Burton said he and his roommate feel isolated and depressed.

“It’s a very serious pandemic and they don’t want to chance our safety and I understand that. It’s just that when you sign up for college and especially living in the dorms and dorm life what comes with it is a community,” Burton said. “Being able to be involved in that community is part of the experience and for me as a senior, that’s very important because I still want to get all my experiences in my year before I graduate and have to deal with the real world. That way I won’t regret not doing certain things. It just feels like that sense of community is gone and we’re isolated — for good reasons. It’s just sad.”

Initially, residents were able to get prepackaged food from Union Station; however, it was closed. Some students are faced with the challenge of going to grocery stores during a time where people are advised to stay inside. Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Jeffrey Waple said administration gave students the option of purchasing fill-your-pantry kits. 

“We kind of knew that this stay-at-home or shelter-in-place directive was going to come, and so we came up with a way for students who are living on campus who, if they wanted to, purchase a 14-day supply of food,” Waple said. 

It was $125 for a kit and $100 for the vegetarian option. For students like Holdenried they were not affordable.

“There are food options. Unfortunately, I cannot afford them because they’re over $100 for a two-weeks supply, I think,” Holdenried said. “When I first heard about the stay-at-home order, I thought Union Station would be open and I could use my resident plan. Unfortunately that is not the case, so I had to dip into my savings in order to take care of myself.”

Despite the situation, Holdenried is trying to maintain a hopeful outlook on what’s to come.

“I’m scared but also hopeful because this will open up our eyes to a lot of health problems in the U.S. and a lot of economic problems,” Holdenried said. “People have been living paycheck to paycheck, corporations have been working bare minimum and a lot of this stuff is very fragile. I’m excited to see what changes might come out of this even though I’m really sad to see the cause.”

Housing has said they will evaluate whether more students need to move at a later date.

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