SARA SHEIKH / THE SPUTNIK PHOTOGRAPHY
Wilfrid Laurier’s Brantford Campus welcomed around 100 students this Fall into residence with new policies and procedures in place for safety.
COVID-19 has thrown the world into a new landscape, and while everyone works to find ways to adapt, the Department of Residence has taken steps to protect incoming students while delivering a successful experience.
Among the new changes, sanitization has been increased within buildings. The department has placed hand sanitizer dispensers throughout, especially near high touchpoints such as doorknobs and buttons. These objects are also sanitized multiple times throughout the day.
Other new precautions include a mask policy, where staff and students within the building must wear a mask outside of their rooms and in halls. Guests are also no longer allowed to visit students in residence buildings, and students are not permitted to visit an apartment or residence building that is not their own. For many, these rules are shaping a residence experience very different than they had imagined.
“We’re not allowed to have family in the building either, but I’m glad that they put a lot of safety considerations for students.” said first-year resident Abigail Pereira.
To provide students with another layer of protection from the virus, the department of residence has also spread out people within the residence buildings.
Although only Expositor Place and Grand River Hall are open to students this year, they are still given plenty of space to maintain social distancing. Each student is given their own apartment unit unless they request a roommate.
An inside look of Grand River Hall for future Golden Hawks. Credit: Wilfrid Laurier University
“If a student wanted an additional person in the apartment or they applied with someone else, we did look to pair them together just cause we understand this can be a trying year for students being isolated,” senior residence life don Jacob Fournier explained.
“So we’re doing our best to really review roommate pairings, and allow students to feel as comfortable as possible within residence.”
There is also a general procedure in place in case a student suspects they are symptomatic or believes they have come in close contact with someone who has tested positive.The incident is immediately reported to Special Constables.
The residence team then works closely with Special Constables, Public Health and the Wellness Centre to judge the situation on a case by case basis, and put a quarantine plan in place. There are various quarantine options available, such as quarantining on campus or at home, and the student has a say as to which plan is implemented.
On the other side of residence life, community engagement looks a lot different this year. Students are currently not allowed to meet up in-person, which leaves students physically isolated from one another for time being.
However, many clubs and initiatives have shifted to an online environment, giving residents the chance to engage with each other from the safety of their apartment. Some digital opportunities this year include the First Year Leadership Council, zoom conference calls for floor meetings and one-on-one hawk talks with residence dons.
“We know it will look different for students but we’re doing everything we can to make sure it doesn’t feel different for students,” said Fournier, “we’re really putting a big emphasis on building community, and it’s really something that dons have really been working hard on this year more so than any year I’ve been a part of the department.”
The students are adapting to these changes and are still able to make connections with others in residence. First-year student Alexa Ford has already found that social distancing procedures do not stop safe social engagement.
“I’ve only been here a week and I’ve already met a nice group of people,” she said.