By L. Kincaid Holmes

A vendor is in place and a contractor has placed the order for more than 350 locks – to be installed by the beginning of the fall semester, according to a March 9 Watercooler announcement. But exactly when, or if, locks will be installed on interior dormitory doors may be decided by the Principia Board of Trustees in their meeting next week, said Dean of Students Maya Dietz and Interim President John Williams during a virtual employee Town Hall this afternoon. 

“We meet with the trustees next week on locks…so that’s up at their level now,” said Williams.

Up to this point, college leadership has been discussing installing locks on doors after the campus was blanketed with posters protesting the administration’s responses to sexual misconduct. Before students left campus for remote learning, the administration announced the first step of their response: install locks on students’ dorm doors over the summer.

“I need to learn more about [the trustees’] perspective on the symbolism of locks….We know that one of the concerns that students have [is] the physical safety, say, in assault,” said Williams. “We also know that a lot of those assaults occur with acquaintances. We also know that a number of them occur in the context of alcohol. Locks, in and of themselves, don’t prevent that. But what they do is they indicate our commitment to the concept of safety. And that allows us to talk about these other issues.”

“That’s the perspective from one side. There are other perspectives that locks represent that I need to learn and understand,” said Williams. “What I need to learn, or [what] the president needs to learn, is where..the budget [is] cut off.”

The cost of installing locks is what brought the issue to the attention of the board, wrote Chestnut Booth, a trustee.

The Town Hall was interrupted periodically by technical difficulties, and Dean of Academics Meggan Madden and Williams both lost internet connection multiple times, as did employees signing onto the meeting on Principia’s wifi. When Williams could, he explained this morning’s Watercooler announcement regarding the campus’ status change to “open but restricted” following Illinois’ transition into phase three of the state’s reopening plan. 

Essential employees are still encouraged to work remotely if possible, but any employee with a sticker is able to come on campus, although they must adhere to social distancing guidelines. 

“Where we’re leaning is to open live,” responded Williams to a question about plans for the fall. 

Institutions of higher education can open in-person with approved safety measures if Illinois jumps to phase four of reopening before the fall semester commences. With that, “we’ve been pretty serious about being prepared to close. We just need to be prepared,” Williams said.

Williams and Ann Pierson, director of athletics, have been discussing how best to address sports this fall. “For athletics, it is far more complex to open face-to-face” than it is for academics, said Williams.

“The indoor athletics facilities, including Crafton and Hay, will remain closed at this time,” said Williams. Next steps for opening indoor facilities are being considered, including the possibility of scheduling use by appointment. In the meantime, outdoor facilities are open for use with two limitations: no groups of more than 10, and activities must not include physical contact among participants.

Only one student applied for gender-inclusive housing for next semester. “That’s not much of a community,” said Dietz, so the Office of Student Life has reached out to the student to determine how best to support them.

“Even though there wasn’t a demand for it this term – and that could entirely be because students weren’t here and weren’t thinking about it, and it was hard to get information out to them – so we’ll continue to promote it and educate students on it and have it available each semester,” said Dietz.

College leadership will make decisions regarding the summer abroad to Malawi and other Principia international travel in the middle of June, according to global reports and advisories from the U.S. Department of State, said Dietz.

For the foreseeable future, employee Town Halls will be held every two weeks at 1 p.m. CDT, and previous recordings and  records of questions can be found on the Faculty Resources page on PrinWeb.

Featured photo courtesy of Jessica Bayne.