As the fall semester came to a close and students said goodbye to campus for the next two and a half months, Le Moyne continued preparing and planning for the upcoming challenges that would accompany the spring.
With COVID-19 always at the forefront of thought, the college had to consider how to move forward and what changes to make from the prior semester.
“The COVID Health & Safety Committee continued to meet weekly over break and I attended the meetings to give student input. One of the biggest decisions that was made was to delay the beginning of the fall semester,” said Student Government Association (SGA) President Danny Bonsangue. “This was something I had pushed for since October on the committee, since other Jesuit schools had already made the decision. This turned out to be a bet that paid off in a big way; we successfully avoided the post-holiday surge and began our semester with numbers almost as low as August. We also bought ourselves more time for people to get vaccinated.”
A big concern was to ensure that the student body had input in the decisions that were being made on their behalf, so SGA sent out a survey at the end of December to collect students’ concerns about issues pertaining to COVID during the fall and how they were handled by administration. With 950 responses, the survey was able to provide insight into how students felt about the fall semester.
“We learned that within the student body there are high rates of loneliness, depression and stress/anxiety. We also learned that half the student body broke the dorm visitation rules at least once, but that a negligible amount of students actually ‘partied,’” said Bonsangue. “From this, we were able to persuade college administration that students didn’t want to party, they just wanted to visit their friends. After a few Health & Safety Committee Meetings, the decision was finally made to allow some visitation within residence areas so long as testing compliance was high.”
In order to ensure that visitation would remain safe and not cause a spike in cases, students living in college provided housing or with other Le Moyne students off campus are required to participate in rapid surveillance testing twice a week. These tests are administered in the Athletic Center and the NAVICA app alerts students of their results a mere 15 minutes after the sample is taken.
As long as the school remains in the yellow zone, visitation will remain as it stands now, with students allowed to visit friends in their own residential areas. In the fall, this rule only applied to residential dorms, so residents living in the Townhouses and Heights remained unable to visit those in neighboring homes. This was the biggest change to the visitation policy this semester.
“I think that the new visitation policies are great. As an RA, it has allowed me to get to know my residents better; some of them I haven’t even met in person prior,” said Townhouse RA, Luke Giunta. “It also has positively impacted the general mood of the area. People’s mental health suffered last semester due to the implemented visitation constraints. Though they were necessary to ensure the gradual safe transition to what we have come to now, I feel like my job didn’t have a purpose because of the lack of community.”
Giunta continued on to say that he feels the implementation of surveillance testing twice a week will help the college “take another step closer to the normalcy we all desire.”
In addition to the new adjustments to indoor visitation policies, the Student Development Office has focused on creating a “winterfest” culture, which included the investment in the new ice rink, according to Bonsangue. Skates, sleds, and snowshoes are all available in the Athletic Center for students who want to brave the Syracuse cold and have some socially distanced fun.
This semester posed many challenges for administration when considering how to adapt and grow from the fall, but with new policies and efforts, it is setting itself up for success.