Students begin their return to the University of West Georgia today, with more expected to arrive in the following days.
As they do, many will be moving into dormitories on campus. A traditional Move-In day has been part of campus tradition for decades.
And yet things are different this year. This is the first time students will have been together in such numbers since the global COVID-19 pandemic began.
University officials have created multiple guidelines and requirements for students to follow, all designed to protect the students from the virus. But some students are wary of the safety protocols and have been maintaining an active commentary on various social media platforms to discuss their concerns.
“We have structured the fall move-in experience at UWG, scheduled for this Saturday and Sunday, to account for social distancing by extending Move-In Day over several days rather than a more compact schedule,” according to an official statement from UWG. Also, students are to be assigned a move-in time, in which only one other person will be permitted to assist them. They will also be offered cloth face coverings.
Although the university may be attempting to provide a safe environment for students moving in, there has been speculation among staff of confirmed COVID-19 cases involving residential life staff members who are already on campus.
A screenshot of a GroupMe conversation that was shared with the Times-Georgian indicates that the relative of a UWG official in charge of residential life has been quarantined after testing positive for the virus. And, a residential assistant was said to have been sent home after exhibiting mild COVID symptoms. Another student has been told to remain at home due to contact with the virus. The Times-Georgian has been unable to verify these claims. UWG’s only statement regarding them was, “The university will not make a statement on matters related to employee’s health.”
But the university has outlined its safety protocols for the Move-In days on its website. The report states, among other things, that dorm stairwells will be designated to provide a single flow of traffic, and elevators will be monitored and used only to move heavy equipment or for mobility or medically impaired individuals who are unable to use the stair.
Among incoming freshmen commenting on social media, a major issue has been that UWG requires all “first time in college” students to live in campus dorms and to purchase meal plans.
To live in the dorms, a student is required to sign a binding contract. First-time college students can seek a waiver, but they must live with a legal parent or guardian within approved ZIP codes, which only include locations within an average 30-mile radius around campus. Other conditions include being 21-years old, married or with children, or having graduated from high school more a year from enrollment or attended two semesters at another institution post-high school graduation.
Those who are able to obtain a release from the agreement after August 1 must pay a penalty of $1,500.
The university has also listed a series of safety rules for dorm life throughout the rest of the term. The university pledges to have safe common spaces inside dorms. Community bathrooms will be cleaned and sanitized daily, or more often. No guests will be permitted into the dorms. The university will also provide wipes, disinfectant sprays, and disposable towels in common spaces.