Students overcome spooky limitations this Halloween

Wesley Brown, Features Editor

As the holiday season starts, the pandemic has disrupted long-standing Halloween traditions, forcing students and faculty to adapt their celebrations. Students will show their resilience and ingenuity this Halloween by decorating their residence halls and trick-or-treating around campus rather than around faculty housing.

On Oct. 23, Dr. Angela D’Amour sent out an email announcing the restrictions students face this coming Oct. 31. Among these restrictions are requests to not leave campus for social gatherings or trick-or-treat around faculty housing. 

Jason Tavarez, director of institutional resilience, explained, “There are definitely incentives [for following these restrictions] for our county as a whole if our neighbors keep improving, namely moving to the next tier — orange — in the governor’s COVID tier system.”

Dr. Lisa DeBoer, art professor and vice-president of the Las Barrancas Owners Association (LBOA) — known more commonly as faculty housing — explained that the restrictions surrounding the neighborhood “came at the request of Las Barrancas.”

A longstanding tradition among Westmont students has been trick-or-treating around Montecito, particularly around faculty housing. Dr. Sarah Skripsky, English department chair and member of the LBOA, stated, “I enjoy seeing their creativity with mostly makeshift costumes, sometimes referencing pop culture, but sometimes performing the roles of academic or historic figures, too.”

Faculty has often enjoyed and encouraged this tradition in past years. Skripsky continued describing an average year of festivities. “The Hunters, Drs. Patti and Dave and family, make the Westmont trick-or-treaters answer quiz questions before they get “treated” with candy; and I think the Pattersons, Dr. Don P. in CS [Computer Science] and family, have gotten college students to dance on their porch before getting ‘treated,’ too.”

While faculty enjoys student participation in Halloween, COVID-19 raises challenges and risks for these traditions. Faculty housing has been careful at facing and mitigating these risks. According to Dr. DeBoer, “our neighborhood has been very vigilant in observing health and safety protocols.”

Regarding Halloween policies, the LBOA had to decide whom they would allow to trick-or-treat and how. DeBoer explained, “We’ve been in conversation about how to do Halloween this year, so the small children can do something fun, but also limiting contact and exposure. I’m in agreement, that this year, at least, big kids (i.e. Westmont students) shouldn’t come through the neighborhood.”

Tavarez elaborated on the importance of limiting Westmont students in particular from roaming faculty housing. “The goal is to allow the Las Barrancas families the opportunity to walk their kids around that area and have a little more space to roam.”

Despite these new hurdles to observing the holiday, there are ways to enjoy the night safely. According to Alyssa Brisby, Westmont Activities Council (WAC) director, “WAC will be putting on Halloweek that starts this Monday, Oct. 25, and runs throughout the week. It will consist of residence halls decorating outdoor spaces outside of their halls to be judged at the end of the week.”

WAC also plans on simulating the trick-or-treating experience. Brisby announced that “there will be stations around campus for students to stop by to get candy, similar to trick-or-treating.”

Guidelines will be enforced at the event to ensure campus health. Brisby outlined these safety plans, stating, “Each station will offer prepackaged candy that will be handed out as well as offering a hand sanitizer pump at every station for student use. Students must be wearing masks as they travel around campus and the members of Res Life and WAC who run each station will be following appropriate measures to ensure this stays a safe event.”

These ideas and events have shown that, despite the circumstances of the pandemic, students and faculty can adapt and learn how to enjoy the holiday in new and exciting ways. As Dr. Deboer assured, “Students are creative! I’m sure there will be some inventive approaches to safe celebrations that are both fun and safe.”