By Slater Smith
President John Williams, Dean of Students Maya Dietz, and Dean of Academics Meggan Madden outlined new procedures and expectations for new students, housing, dining services, and social events in a town hall meeting August 7, as the start of the college semester draws nearer.
“We are doing what others are doing in the region and we have procedures in place,” said Williams.
The college remains focused on beginning in-person instruction on August 31 as well as preparing for the arrival of new and returning students.
As of now, there are “about 220 students who will definitely reside on campus,” said Dietz. Part of those 220 students will be a notably smaller freshman class.
Interim Director of Admissions Brett Grimmer recently sent a survey to incoming freshmen to gauge how many will be staying on campus this semester. Of the freshmen who responded, 78% indicated that they will come to campus, 16% said they will not, and 3% responded that they are unsure.
After reviewing statistics on incoming freshmen and returning students, President Williams, Deans Dietz, and Dean Madden spent the rest of the meeting responding to questions from attendees about a range of topics including social activities, dining services, and safety protocols.
In response to a question concerning the logistics of socially distanced events, Dietz said events will generally be smaller and more relaxed. “We recognize how stressed people may be and are planning to have fewer, more calm events to create space for people to feel relaxed while following restrictions,” she said.
Events will be “much smaller in general,” regardless of the exact number of returning students.
The administration is continuing to brainstorm ways for students to enjoy meals while maintaining appropriate distance. One addition provides for people to eat outside under a tent near the School of Nations, with limited capacity. Director of Dining Services Lance Thornton outlined additional procedures for the dining hall and the Piasa Pub.
“The pub will be open depending on how many student workers we have,” said Thornton. “We are looking at starting off with what we feel are the most wanted time frames—evening portions after dinner. We are looking at extending these times on Saturday and Sunday.”
Although the student dining room and the Piasa Pub will be open, the faculty and staff dining room will not be available during the fall semester. “We will not be opening the faculty and staff dining room until we can make it more conducive to social distancing,” said Dietz.
Attendees asked about additional COVID-19 procedures, housing protocols, and mask requirements during the latter half of the meeting.
The college “has a good contact tracing plan and a solid line of communication with the Jersey Health Department,” said Williams.
Alongside the tracing plan, the administration is developing a self-screening process which will be rolled out next week. “We have a thorough plan for someone who has shown symptoms including an initial quarantine period of 3 days. We developed these plans with the Jersey County Health Department and the Alton Memorial Hospital,” said Williams.
Upon arrival to campus, every student will receive a mask with a Principia logo on the front. Madden displayed a sample on screen, mentioning that clear masks have been purchased for faculty to enable lecturing. “We have not tested them yet because we are waiting on equipment,” said Madden.
“Fortunately, the percentages have been fairly balanced across houses in terms of students returning compared to students who are not,” said Dietz. Once students are on campus, they will be spread out as much as possible. While not every student will have a single, the college will do its best to maintain distancing in houses, with no more than two students per dorm room and guidelines for common areas.
At the end of the forum, Dietz encouraged the audience to attend two upcoming online “Race and Faith” events on August 11 with the Panel of Alums and August 14 with the President of Union Presbyterian Seminary. More information can be found in The Watercooler.
Recognizing that the upcoming semester will look drastically different in all areas at Principia College, Williams, Dietz, and Madden stressed the importance of staying focused and calm. “Can we figure out ways to slow down while maintaining our lives?” asked Williams.
Featured photo by United Nations on Unsplash.