Being in the dorms freshman year is key to creating lifelong friendships. After graduating high school, it is all that freshmen think about besides the upcoming academic year. New students have waited for move-in day since graduating high school. Due to the pandemic, many schools across the nation have postponed the start of school or have canceled all in-person classes to try to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, the class of 2024 will never get to experience dorm life as freshmen.
UP decided to let students know that class will be online three days before tuition was due. As a freshman, I found that to be terrible management. The administration lacked communication to all students. It was frightening and difficult especially being the only person from my high school enrolled in a university that did not give information weeks before tuition was due. I had a feeling that UP would pull something like this because I was watching the increase of cases in Multnomah County around Portland. This was enraging. I never will get to experience living on campus as a freshman, talk to my peers and sit on the grass in front of Franz hall, have late night study sessions in the dorms, or experience Pilots After Dark and other UP events on campus.
It is hard for students to find the motivation to complete their assignments while they are living with family. It is hard because students aren’t able to connect as easily with their peers if they need help. It is harder for freshmen than the other classes because they have already been able to adjust to the flow of college and college life itself. We, freshmen, are still using high school studying practices rather than college studying habits. Being online has also impacted students mentally and physically. Some experience classes in a different time zone or overload of homework.
After being online for a month, UP should have let their students live on campus this year. They should have put more effort to allow the freshman class to dorm. For example, safety precautions were already put in place from the university as a disclaimer to all parents and students. There was to be an isolated wing for students if they do contract COVID-19, and to this day, masks are required at all times. Maintaining social distance is a requirement. For move in day, I received a detailed outline of how long I had to move in and the reason for such a short time. It was greatly detailed to the point that I felt my safety was not in jeopardy. Unfortunately, I was unable to move in due to the fact that I am not an Army ROTC student and did not have a substantial reason to be on campus this fall semester. I am currently residing in my home in the Bay Area.
In contrast, Creighton University in Nebraska has offered their Fall semester 2020 classes online, in-person and hybrid. Their students have frequent COVID-19 testing to ensure that everyone on campus is not infected. I was envious when one of my peers told me he was moving in on Aug. 12. I was supposed to drive up to Portland on Aug. 12. UP could have proceeded with this process in the first place instead of giving false hope to all students. Many colleges in Oregon are in fact open to the students. Pacific University, Linfield College, Salem State University, Multnomah University and Lewis and Clark are all open this fall semester. Multnomah University is a religious university like University of Portland so why didn’t campus open in the fall?
There is an exception for some students to be living on campus this semester. If you have a family related reason, you may dorm on campus. Army ROTC is allowed and is required to dorm because of the physical training the students have to go through. Students are required to wear a mask at all times on campus from walks around campus, the dorm lobby, and during a bonfire. This is unfair. Students who have ROTC and others with special circumstances are able to have their freshmen dorm experience without in-person classes. UP has all these rules in place for everyone on campus yet they aren’t implementing required testing to ensure that there is not a case of coronavirus on campus. It just seems counterproductive if students are already logging in their symptoms and their temperatures as they go off campus, yet they are not required to get tested. It is the student’s choice to get tested as well so they do not have to get tested forcefully.
Entering college, I was afraid of not being able to talk to my professors after class. I had always imagined myself staying after class to ask a private question to my professor. It is hard to do that now. Introverted students like me may have a hard time connecting with their classmates and finding the help that they need, especially virtually. For example, I was terrified to reach out to anyone in my classes because I was afraid of what their reactions may be from someone reaching out to them for a silly question about the lesson. I have not yet been able to use office hours established from professors because of time conflicts with other classes. If we were in person, I would be able to walk to my professor and ask if they were able to meet at a certain time or simply ask them a quick question before or after class without other students present or the question being recorded on Zoom. And I’m sure, I would have classmates in the same dorm hall to interact with throughout my day.
Staying in the dorms your first year in college provides an opportunity to create life-long friendships, even with social distancing. It is easier to see your classmates in person and hang out instead of having to go through the UP email system and find their email to contact them or stalk their social media platform to connect. If I were on campus right now, I would be able to meet all of my professors formally. I would be able to have the late-night study sessions with my workshop classmates while eating burgers from Burgerville or eating Voodoo donuts for breakfast with classmates in my 9 a.m. class. I wish the administration kept the plan for moving in and instituted enhanced safety precautions for students and staff.
(This piece was written 2 weeks prior to the email sent October 2, 2020 concerning Spring 2021 semester on-campus residency guidelines.)
Malaya Paras-Mangrobang is a freshman nursing major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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