As the time draws near for students to repopulate campus, everyone is in a frenzy to know exactly what’s happening in order to be most prepared. That said, there has been much speculation and uncertainty about what it will look like to be back on campus. Below is a list of what we do and don’t know about our upcoming move-in and the weeks thereafter.
1. We know that we will be moving in the week of September 23rd.
According to Dr. Stu Cleek, Dean of Students, Westmont is not aware of any likely situation that will prevent students from moving in as planned. Although Santa Barbara County is still in the tier one, or widespread, level of California’s new Blueprint for a Safer Economy plan, this allows for students to be in residence halls. Cleek described methods like “social distancing, mask wearing, [and] physical barriers between sinks in bathrooms,” to comply. Even if the county’s case rate does not improve by the time we are back on campus, we will still be able to repopulate.
2. We do not know if we will be able to have indoor classes when back on campus.
This will be determined by whether Santa Barbara County reaches the next tier by Sept. 28, the day in-person classes are set to resume. Cleek laid out some possibilities for when we do return if there aren’t any lifted county restrictions: some classes will be held online, some will be held in-person outdoors, and some may be held indoors if they have special designations, such as some labs.
3. We know that Westmont will do its best to keep everyone COVID-19 free.
Jason Tavarez, Director of Institutional Resilience, outlined just a few of the ways that Westmont will keep the coronavirus at bay. When we arrive back on campus, all students will take a baseline test and will be tested randomly again throughout the semester. Westmont will implement symptom tracking for students and contact tracing if cases arise, place students that test positive or demonstrate symptoms in quarantine rooms, and enforce strict guidelines for every member of the Westmont community.
4. We know that we will be limited in our range of activities after returning.
Due to the nature of the coronavirus, Westmont is limited in its ability to host large group gatherings on campus. Many elements of a normal year at Westmont will be held digitally, such as chapel, some WAC events, and some club meetings. However, Dr. Edee Schulze, Vice President for Student Life, assured us that there will be events for move-in weekend, especially to welcome first-years and transfers. Furthermore, off-campus activities should be limited, too. Schulze outlined a basic rule of thumb for outings, saying, “If students are thinking about going off-campus, they should ask, ‘Is this essential?’ If not, stay on campus.” In accordance, the shuttle system will run less frequently and have fewer stops.
5. We do not know at what point students will have to be sent home if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 on campus.
In the case of an extreme outbreak of the virus, it is possible that students will have to leave campus. That said, there is no designated threshold at which we must de-populate campus. According to Tavarez, it all depends on how well Westmont is able to handle the cases on campus and work with health officers. Our best way to ensure that we can stay on campus is to follow Westmont’s COVID-19 plan.
6. We know that students must comply with Westmont’s guidelines and hold each other accountable.
Without student commitment and camaraderie, Westmont will not be able to keep cases down by itself. We all must commit to following Westmont’s guidelines. Wear a mask, maintain social distance, wash your hands, and be smart. As Schulze put it, “We are counting on everyone on our campus to self-regulate their own behavior and make good choices and sacrificial choices for the protection of the community.” The tradeoff with being back on campus is this: we have to follow the rules.