While the University transitioned back to in-person classes this week, some students chose to stay behind. As we took a longer look at the factors playing into these decisions, some interesting issues regarding COVID-19’s effect on social interactions were unveiled.
The story begins and ends with COVID-19. With classes beginning in a virtual setting for these first two weeks, several students have decided to simply stay home rather than move back into their dormitories.
Grace Griffin, a first-year student attending Drake University said that she is staying home out of fear for an extension of our virtual period.
“I don’t want to move in with the off chance that we are sent home at the end of these two weeks,” Griffin said.
Griffin went on to explain that due to her theatre major, she requires more space for her ballet practice — something her dorm cannot provide.
On the flip side, some students claim that the resources Drake University offers such as the Bell and Olmsted Center make on-campus life worth it even in our brief virtual period.
“One of the best positives to living on campus is access to the Bell Center because it provides a free workout space in a nearby area. I also enjoy Starbucks and Hubbell, as they provide readily available meals and coffee, which is essential to any study session,” said first-year Sydney Hermes.
These students worry about what may come in the next month though, as several universities across the U.S. have already extended virtual periods deep into February. This would likely only occur if COVID case numbers on campus began to rise at an uncontrollable rate, but it is not out of the realm of possibilities.
“I would be worried if our virtual time was extended … Using Zoom, much of our discussion time is cut short, and these conversations would be more meaningful in a face-to-face environment with room for student interaction,” said first-year Ben Connolly.
In this unlikely scenario, students paint on-campus resources and relationships as their largest incentive to remain on university grounds. If these factors were hindered by future COVID-19 preventative measures, countless students may reconsider their choice to stay on campus.
“If this virtual period were extended, I would continue living on campus,” said first-year Sydney Hermes. “I want to make the most of the room & board payments that I’m making this spring along with continuing with the countless relationships I’ve built while on campus so far.”
An interesting angle into this story was found whilst interviewing students across campus, that being how large an impact on-campus relationships have in these virtual decisions.
“If the virtual period was extended, I wouldn’t think twice about staying on campus for the duration of the period,” said Connolly. “I have so many social connections in the residence hall that are hard to keep when everyone is off-campus. I wouldn’t want to be separated from college friends.”
Even when cooped up in their dorms, Drake students seem drawn to the social atmosphere this campus has to offer. Even with a lack of university-hosted, in-person activities, students are banking on their interpersonal connections as the end-all-be-all to their COVID-19 decisions. Despite all the pandemic has thrown at Drake University, the overwhelming sense of community built by its students stands immune.