Students share how they really feel about returning to campus

On Tuesday, June 23, ACCESS distributed a survey to students who use their services, which aimed to gauge their comfort level about returning to campus this fall. 

After the Office for Accessible Campus Community and Equitable Student Support released a survey asking students their concern level for returning to campus in the fall, students reached out to The Alestle to voice a mix of concern and excitement at the prospect.

On Tuesday, June 23, ACCESS asked students to complete a survey, which aimed to gauge their comfort level returning to campus this fall. The survey, meant for ACCESS students, is titled “Return to Campus Readiness Survey.” It asked students a series of questions to help ACCESS prepare to accommodate students this fall.

The questions covered topics such as concerns students may have in regard to on-ground activities, their feelings about hybrid courses that would take place partially on-campus and partially online and how they felt about rooming with another person in campus housing.

Mass communications major Marcus Key, of Edwardsville, Illinois, is going into his senior year and said he is hoping to make the most of the upcoming semester. Key voiced his trust in SIUE’s judgment going forward in regards to health and safety. However, Key did raise one concern about the rooming situation for on-campus housing.

“I am concerned about the two person per room situation, at least in Cougar Village Apartments, which is where I will be living. Living in such tight quarters and within close proximity of someone [in the same room] makes it so difficult to practice social distancing and adhere to the guidelines to stay healthy,” Key said. “My biggest concern is that because of this alone, there will be a lot of students getting ill and potentially spreading the virus to many other students. I can only think that will be disastrous, and I do not know if the school has really considered, at least for housing concern, how two people in a room might not be the answer.”

Other SIUE students, like freshman business major Allie Niebrugge, of Teutopolis, Illinois, and junior biology major Sarah Craig, of Vandalia, Illinois, expressed excitement in regards to returning to campus. Though both were eager to come back this fall, they each had different reservations when it came to the plans SIUE has set forth. 

Craig said she is looking forward to returning, but the campus’s policy mandating face masks to be worn while on the grounds disappointed her.

“Kinda bummed about the masks, I’m getting sick and tired of those!” Craig said. “But, I get it, and it’s better than having to do another semester online!”

Niebrugge said SIUE’s policy limiting guests for on-campus housing was disappointing, but she understood the logistics behind the decision.

“I’m excited that campus will be opening, however, I am a little disheartened about the no visitors rule for on-campus housing. I understand the logic behind it, and I appreciate the university’s efforts to keep us all safe,” Niebrugge said. “I just wish there was another way that would still pay respect to the importance to the health and well-being of the students that allowed for parents and other SIUE students to be able to visit the individuals in personal rooms.”

SIUE, in the Our Cougar Commitment plan, listed the guidelines they intend to move forward with in the fall, provided Illinois remains in Phase Four of the state’s COVID-19 strategy.

“While this is our plan as determined this summer, know that we remain transparent, flexible and responsive,” SIUE said in their guidelines. “As conditions change, so will we, by incorporating the latest scientific and medical information available. We look forward to greeting you on campus in August.”

Within SIUE’s instructions, student residency was addressed, as Craig and Key pointed out, and a ban on guests was established, as discussed by Niebrugge. According to the guidelines, there will also be a maximum limit of two students per bedroom and isolation rooms put aside for any student who tests positive for COVID-19. Additionally, the plans include the details for updated sanitation procedures.

Senior psychology major Lexee Camp, of Princeton, Illinois, voiced concerns for those with disabilities as SIUE formulates their plans of opening in the fall. Camp said she believes SIUE’s vague mentions in their guidelines of ACCESS working to accommodate students during the next semester could have a negative impact on her upcoming senior year.

“I don’t think that SIUE included those with disabilities into their conversation when discussing how to go about Fall semester with COVID-19. As a student with a disability, it’s really disheartening that time and time again we, those with disabilities, are constantly left out of the important conversations in regard to succeeding,” Camp said. “My greatest concern is that because of this new plan, I won’t have the means necessary to be successful in my senior year.”

Camp said she was stressed at first when SIUE hadn’t mentioned plans for students who are hard of hearing since the university has made wearing masks in class mandatory, which would affect her ability to read lips. Camp also said because lip reading is a vital part of her ability to learn, she had debated taking time off from school until masks were no longer needed.

Neither SIUE’s email about the Fall 2020 semester, nor the attached guidelines, specifically mention current plans for students with disabilities, and the only mention of ACCESS’s involvement asks students who cannot wear a mask covering due to medical conditions to contact them. Camp said her questions about this were eventually answered by SIUE and ACCESS, with their response telling her that face shields and online options would be available upon request.

Students who qualify can fill out the survey, which was sent to them via their SIUE email, and express their concerns regarding the university’s plans to open the campus this fall.

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