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Campus status shifts to ‘yellow,’ loosening beginning of semester restrictions

September 17, 2020

On Sunday, students were notified that the College’s status had been moved from “orange” to “yellow,” allowing students living on campus to leave for essential needs, visit the College’s libraries, study in certain academic buildings and gather in common areas in both their own and other residence halls.

“Students, while you may now congregate in residence hall common areas in accordance with posted occupancy, I do want to note that based on conversations with other public health experts, we are asking for face coverings to be worn at all times unless you are in your private bedroom,” wrote Mike Ranen, Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Director of Residential and Student Life, in an email to the campus community.

“People are itching to get off campus,” said Janet Lohmann, Dean for Student Affairs, in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “They want to ride their bikes, they want to run, they want to get some shampoo—I totally get it.”

Many students initially expected the restriction on off-campus travel to last only a week, but the College kept it due to two positive COVID-19 tests. The additional week that students were not allowed off-campus meant that some students did not have necessary items for two weeks on campus.

Chloe Renfro ’21 expressed confusion about whether off-campus socializing was entirely sanctioned by the campus status change.

“We were literally planning a room trip to Walmart as soon as we hit yellow, so Sunday we went to Walmart because … we didn’t know we weren’t going to be in ‘yellow’ for this long, so we didn’t necessarily prepare as well as we should have,” Renfro said in a video interview with the Orient. “We had no cleaning supplies.”

For Alice Hawkins ’22, a head ResLife proctor, the change of status was both exciting and, at first, daunting.

“One part of me was really excited because it gave this sense of normalcy and that things were going okay, and I want to be able to go off campus and go to Hannaford and do what I need to do,” Hawkins said in a video interview with the Orient. “Also, I could see how much everyone on campus needed that—they needed that freedom.”

But Hawkins also felt somewhat hesitant; she pointed out that the criteria for shifting the campus’s status to “yellow” stipulated students’ compliance with the residential community agreement, which she felt had not entirely been the case. But at this point, she feels differently.

“Honestly, to see how these past two weeks have gone, and our cases haven’t risen…maybe I was just a bit too apprehensive,” she said. “I think it’s going okay, and that’s made me a bit more positive.”

For first-year students who have never experienced a normal Bowdoin semester, the change in status was significant for on-campus life as well as off-campus life. Fay O’Donnell ’24 was excited about being able to go off campus, particularly for runs with her teammates on the cross country and track teams, but she also felt that the status change made a meaningful difference in how it felt to be on campus.

“It’s been hard because I feel like a lot of us haven’t gotten the proper Bowdoin experience. I feel like, at this point in a normal year, we would know most of the names of the buildings and the fastest route to get places, but basically the only places we go on campus are to the dining halls, to our dorm rooms and the gym for testing,” O’Donnell said in a video interview with the Orient. “So now that the athletic facilities are going to start opening and the library is open, I feel like students are going to start feeling more comfortable and more at home.”

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