Over the past few months, resident students at Framingham State University had to adjust to a “new normal” – one that came with new restrictions on socialization and obtaining food, as well as required mandatory, biweekly COVID-19 tests.
Many students who were on campus last semester decided to move back home for the 2020-21 academic year. This switch has led to a significant decrease in the University’s residential population, from 1,250 to 707.
Examples of some of these restrictions include time limits in the Dining Commons. Each student has 25-30 minutes to eat their food. To even gain entry to the Dining Commons, students have to place a reservation.
A similar guideline was enforced by the Ram’s Den Grille. In October, another advisory statement asked students not to move chairs around the Grille’s seating area to form clusters of patrons.
As of Nov. 6, in accordance with Gov. Charlie Baker’s Stay-at-Home Advisory, Sandella’s and the Ram’s Den Grille have been open for all orders until 9:30 p.m. However, from 9:30 p.m. until closing time at 11:30 p.m., all orders have to be made through a mobile ordering app. Chairs are also stored away until the Grille opens again the next day.
Another example can be tied to the Library. Prior to November, community members were allowed to enter the Henry Whittemore Library at any time, provided it was open.
Now, the Library limits access to faculty, staff, and students who must tap their ID cards onto a sensor to gain access.
Across campus, self-serving water fountain spouts have been covered with red duct tape and users must refill their water bottles at hands-free water fountains.
Some water fountains, such as the ones in May Hall’s first floor, have since been replaced with hands-free alternatives.
Above all, the biggest restriction students, staff, and faculty face is that everyone on campus has to wear a mask or a face covering in public spaces. Everyone is asked to social distance from 6-or-more feet apart.
Residential students, however, had to comply with a revised guest policy in all residential buildings on campus, stating that no residential students are allowed to sign students from other buildings into their own, in order to control the spread of the virus.
Additionally, no off-campus individuals – such as siblings and other relatives – are allowed to enter the residence halls, unless they are there to assist a student moving in or out of a building.
This also extends to certain types of housing, such as suites. FSU’s COVID-19 updates and resources website states, “The maximum number of persons allowed to be present in any residence hall bedroom will be limited to the number of occupants plus 1 person. Suites will be limited to the number of occupants plus 2 additional persons.”
Finally, bathrooms are restricted to residents on a specific floor – as in, residents of the sixth floor of Larned Hall can only use the bathrooms on their respective floor.
FSU’s COVID-19 page reads, “Community bathroom use will be restricted to a designated number of users at any given time and use will be limited to floor members. In some areas, schedules will be created to help provide predictable shower access given lower occupancy limits.”
Despite these restrictions, some students who live on campus, including senior Eryca Carrier, said it was not hard to “adjust” to these regulations.
“I think it was because I accepted the reality of things quickly in March,” said Carrier. “I knew that things wouldn’t be the same in the fall, so I had months to prepare myself.
“I also agree with the restrictive precautions, so I don’t have any issues following them because I know that they’re valuable and they’re protecting our community,” she added.
Ben McGhee, a senior, thinks the guest policy “can be annoying sometimes,” but he said it was “put in there for a good reason.”
Krista Hoegen, a senior who works as a Security Desk Attendant (SDA) in Horace Mann Hall, said she “does not enjoy being here in these conditions.”
“It makes it more risky for me to go home because I have infant nephews that I like to go [home and] visit, but I can’t because I don’t know who I’ve come in contact with,” Hoegen said. “It definitely makes living here a lot lonelier because it secludes me from my family for a few days until I can figure out if it is safe for me to visit.”
Brendan Smith, a sophomore who is also an SDA in Horace Mann Hall, shares Hoegen’s concerns.
“It [the virus] does seclude me from my family, because I have grandparents that I like to visit sometimes,” Smith said. “That’s not really an option because I don’t want to come in contact with them.”
Emily Atherton, a sophomore and a Resident Assistant (RA) in Horace Mann Hall, found certain things to be “weird” compared to her freshman year.
“Now that I’m actually working the job [being an RA], it’s nothing like it was supposed to be when I applied,” Atherton said.
She added, “That whole added-on responsibility was just a weird adjustment since it’s not the ‘typical’ RA experience you would expect.”
Atherton’s friend, Alex Hebert, a sophomore who is an SDA in Horace Mann Hall, agreed with her.
“It was definitely a strange adjustment to get used to when there aren’t a lot of people on campus,” said Hebert.
Despite the pandemic, Casey McAuliffe, a sophomore and a guard for the women’s basketball team, still managed to find time to shoot some hoops with friends in the New Gym on Wednesday.
“This semester on campus has definitely been different,” she said. “I can’t say that learning online has been great, but professors have been super accommodating, along with the SDAs and the faculty doing their best job to keep it as normal as possible.”
A common concern raised by students was a decline in their mental health. As residents can’t be as social as they used to be, the “social butterflies” on campus have had to adjust to new ways of keeping up with those they cherish.
Haley Grealish, a junior, said that the “only thing she really noticed that sucks” is not being able to have her friends visit. “I just wish that my friends could come by and say, ‘Hello,’ and just be able to chill in a room instead of having to meet somewhere in the [McCarthy Center’s] student lounge,” Grealish said.
Her friend, Bailey Brennan, a freshman, noted how it was “kind of different” because of this being “the only experience of college [she’s] ever known.”
She said, “I still think it is weird, comparatively, to what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen with my aunts [going to] college. It just seems like there’s less people around [and] it seems a little more restricted than it should be.”
Many students said despite the campus’ COVID-19 restrictions, they would still return for the spring 2021 semester.
Smith said, “One of the main things I stay on campus for is that focus [that I’m able to obtain], so, yeah, I would come back. Also, for work, too.”
Atherton said, “Probably, because if I don’t, I can’t be an RA anymore.”
Carrier said, “Yes, I will be returning.”
Other students were less receptive to the idea of returning.
Hoegen said, laughing, “No.”
McGhee said, “I’m not sure if I’m returning next semester, [but if I do,] it will most likely be for work.”
As of publication time, these regulations will continue to be in place during the spring semester.