Housing and Resident Life implements visitor restrictions

Housing and Resident Life implements visitor restrictions

Hannah Hippensteel, Features Reporter

In recent weeks, Housing and Residence Life staff have implemented policy shifts with considerations to visitors.

An email on Tuesday, Sept. 1 addressed the updated guest policies for all students living in the dorms.

Prior to this revision, all students living in residence life were “highly encouraged” to not have visitors of any kind in the dorms to minimize potential exposure until Sept. 8, which was noted as the “lay low” period.

Stated in the Sept. 1 email, the updated policies will serve as an extension of the previous regulations.

Starting Sept. 30, no Winona State University off-campus students, friends or family members will be allowed in residence halls. Students can have a maximum of one visitor, who must also live within one of the residence halls, and will be required to have the guest leave before 11 p.m.

Oct. 1 brings increased expectations for visitors with the requirement for students to be registered and checked into the front desk upon arrival. Visitors are also not allowed to stay for more than 3 consecutive nights and must have permission from roommates to visit.

Additionally, the no off-campus or outside guests rule has been extended through the end of the fall semester. The email states that a decision has not yet been made for the spring semester.

Paula Scheevel, director of Housing and Residence Life, spoke about what went into creating the updated policies.

All policies, including the newest updates, were considered with the Minnesota Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) protocols in mind.

Although there are some guidelines that cannot be altered for life in the dorms, like wearing masks and social distancing, the staff and student workers collaborated to update regulations to create a positive housing experience.

One of these instances is the internal decisions about the number of events required for resident assistants (RAs) to host.

“Events are weighted heavy in the beginning of the year, within the first six weeks as students are starting to feel comfortable and at home. This year, RAs had to get creative with events,” Scheevel said.

In terms of feedback on the updated policies, Scheevel said for students who follow the guidelines, the 14-day quarantine and shifts in community living won’t feel much different than before.

“There have always been guidelines to follow. For groups of students moving away to be independent, that can be difficult to always be told what to do. But our ultimate goal with Housing and Residence Life, in a pandemic or not, is to provide students with an environment for academic success, a chance to make connections and people to support and engage you,” Scheevel said.

Alex Tracy, a senior majoring in social science and history teaching, has lived in residence halls for his entire time at Winona State. He has worked in Lourdes Hall on West Campus for three years and was originally inspired by his freshman year resident assistant to apply.

In Tracy’s years as an RA, his favorite part of the job has stayed the same, despite the challenges presented by COVID-19.

“My favorite part of the job is the community aspect, especially in Lourdes. I can be a resource to first-year students and upperclassmen on how to get connected with campus,” Tracy said.

He also said he is rewarded by watching the growth of his residents from the first to last day of the year.

However, Tracy believes that the ability of students to be social and get connected has been stunted with the safety regulations.

“It’s a lot harder to build a sense of community now and facilitate connections. The pandemic has made a lot of people feel isolated,” Tracy said.

Tracy said he and his fellow housing staff underwent RA training in August and were introduced to a hybrid of in-person and virtual sessions which would prepare them for the biggest shift to the job: programming.

RAs are now expected to host six events over the course of the semester: three in-person events and three virtual events.

Earlier this school year, Tracy held a socially-distanced walk around the lake and an event called “Learn Adapt Grow”. The event was held to inform his residents about campus resources and time management, which was facilitated the first week of classes.

He also had plans to host an in-person trivia night on Saturday, Sept. 12, which was transitioned to a virtual experience following the imposed 14-day campus quarantine which limits non-essential travel and events.

“Hosting virtual events will take more work to boost attendance,” Tracy said. “It’s not always the most exciting with how much time students spend in Zoom classes, but we’re looking at incentives to get more people involved.”

Tracy said he understands his residents and their frustration about the changing housing policies. He says his overall hope for his last year working with the Housing and Residence Life staff is to find a positive mindset amid uncertainty.

“This year has been stressful for everyone. My biggest message is that we’ll get out of this year what we put into it,” Tracy said. “The guidelines aren’t passive, so we’ll need to follow them to make the most of the school year.”