the lodge

With the Illinois State University Redbirds returning to the nest for the fall semester, living situations on campus and off campus might look a little different. 

Several guidelines are suggesting that dorm living be decreased to encourage social distancing. Northern Illinois University has decided to do single rooms for their dorms this year.  While no announcement has been made, students are unsure on how COVID-19 affects their housing plans for fall 2020. 

At Illinois State, many dorm rooms are quads or triples, rooming four students. Some suites house multiple rooms with a common area, increasing the number of students sharing a living space. 

If the guidelines are followed, thousands of students could be displaced from dorms. 

Like many decisions made during the pandemic, the final choice on whether students will have to find off-campus living won’t be made until the end of July. Until it’s known when the second wave will come, all the plans seem tentative.

While the future is still unclear for the many specific situations that are among students, the feelings of many returning Redbirds vary with their living situation. 

Off-campus students have found themselves not as worried about the impact the pandemic has on their living situations. 

Many of the students living in the residence halls believe the current decisions of the university aren’t enough to deal with the day-to-day routine of these on-campus students.

“I mean, honestly, how do you social distance in an elevator, bathroom or anything? I think it’s not worth [going back] because the cleaning staff is going to have trouble cleaning so much every day,” sophomore elementary education major Emily McNicholas said. 

McNicholas went on to highlight the access system in place for on-campus students to get into the residence halls and the dining halls with the usage of their university identification cards, stressing the unsanitary concerns that come with the system. 

“I just don’t think this is worth it and I think holding off [on going back to campus] until the second wave is over is the best option,” McNicholas said. 

As university officials announced, the social distancing guidelines in place will have students living on campus seeing less of their peers among them in the residence halls to stress the importance of social distancing. 

One of the decisions is to replace the traditional quad setup in each residence hall with triples instead. Many students found out about this decision from a peer or for themselves by looking at the housing website for other information. 

Within recent weeks, there is speculation on whether it would be better to move approximately 1,000 of the 6,000 students out of the residence halls and into off-campus apartments.

University officials believe these decisions serve the purpose of avoiding a large portion of students in the same proximity on campus, emphasizing that there is more work and details that they have to finalize within the next couple of months. 

However, sophomore sociology major Tatyanna Gibbons shares a similar perspective as McNicholas. She believes that the university can be much clearer when it comes to the specific details of how things will look in the residence halls and at the campus-wide level. 

“There’s not much you can do to social distance on a college campus when there are people living there. People are bound to get close and all we can really do is implement social distancing where it can be and hope for the best,” Gibbons said. 

For students such as sophomore transfer and elementary education major Mackenzie Hodge, the concern of how long it will take to finalize these details and decisions is on the rise as the school year approaches. 

Incoming freshmen and sophomore transfers are set to wait until mid to late July to finalize room assignments with their future roommates. Given such a short timeframe to figure out a backup plan if things fall through gives many of these students a large amount of frustration toward the university. 

Hodge highlighted that she will not be able to find out a lot of details regarding her housing situation until July 23, emphasizing the fear she has if things don’t work out and the short time period she would have to find another place to live. 

“The thing is dorms are like the people you live with at home. Some have three [roommates], some have six [roommates and] some have more. We will be around each other no matter what,” Hodge said. 

On-campus students are remaining hopeful that university officials and University Housing follow through with their commitment to work the various issues before August rolls around. 

For off-campus students, off-campus living might be more difficult to implement guidelines and rules of social distancing and wearing face masks. With many students living with at least one roommate or more, it can be difficult to follow the guidelines. 

But since leasing companies are leaving up rules and guidelines to residents, some are not too worried about having strict rules.

“Right now, I’m not too worried about it. I’m sure ISU will implement face masks and social distancing and I saw how face masks and all that stuff helped my hometown so it’s like, I can’t imagine it will be too bad once we are all back at ISU,” senior Gabriel Ayala said.

Leasing companies have urged students to make payments online or mail them in since they are restricting visits to the office. For leasing companies who have pools in apartment complexes such as The Lodge or College Station apartments, security will be present to limit the size in the pool area along with restrictions for non-residents.

With many things still up in the air for students living on and off campus, the safe return to campus along with safe guidelines gives a gleam of hope for a slow return to normal.

KELLIE FOY is News Editor for The Vidette. She can be contacted at  Follow her on Twitter at @kellie_foy 

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