Staff from Residential Life and the Office of the Dean for Student Affairs—including Director of Residential Education Whitney Hogan, Associate Dean of Upperclass Students Khoa Khuong and Dean of Students Kristina Bethea Odejimi—offered several clarifications about the Campus Community Agreement on Monday, November 23 during an informal question-and-answer office hours session with students.
Hogan reviewed the guidelines about pods—which were outlined in the Campus Community Agreement—and clarified rules about visiting between on-campus residences that are part of different pods. When the campus is in yellow status, students not in the same pod may gather inside the common spaces of private residences as long as they wear masks, follow social distancing guidelines and abide by occupancy limits.
Hogan reiterated that students on campus or in residence will only be allowed to leave their on- or off-campus residences for essential travel in Brunswick when the campus is in yellow status. Hogan classified grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions and exercise within Brunswick as essential travel. Students will be required to contact their dean for permission if they wish to leave campus for any other reason.
“We did not define [essential travel] in the fall community agreement, and that ended up being a really big mistake,” she said. “I feel like it was somewhat important for us to lay some boundaries around it.”
Associate Dean of Upperclass Students Khoa Khoung offered examples of what travel would be considered nonessential.
“I think some people have asked whether or not they can go to Sunday River to go skiing, for example, or go another place to ice skate, and the answer would be no, you can’t do that,” he said.
Staff also indicated that the College is planning to discontinue the off-campus testing program offered to students living in Brunswick during the fall semester. This would impact any students living off-campus in Brunswick who choose not to be in residence at the College.
For some students, the Agreement’s policies regarding students living off-campus but in residence—which require that all members of a household make the same decision—presented another set of challenges. Manuela Velasquez ’21, who will be living in an off-campus house with other seniors, said that her house had, after much deliberation, decided to sign the Campus Community Agreement and live in-residence.
“We have a pretty strict and formal way of organizing our COVID[-19] safety stuff because there’s 12 of us living here, so it’s a huge feat to organize everyone and to lay down expectations for how people should be doing stuff,” Velasquez said in a video interview with the Orient. “When we were seeing all the campus rules, it just seemed like it would be restricting us in different ways that wouldn’t necessarily feel as comfortable to people.”
Velasquez’s house considered a number of options when they first saw the Campus Community Agreement, including sealing a door in the middle of the building that would split the residence into two six-person units or having those who wanted to live in-residence move out of the house. However, the question-and-answer office hours session with staff from the Office of Residential Life and Student Affairs made the majority of her group feel more comfortable living in-residence.
The group will still have to find two more people to fill spots that opened up when some house residents decided to take time off or not live in-residence, but Velasquez is glad to know that she will still be able to live in the same house in the spring.
“I feel really relieved that at least we’ve decided that we’re doing this,” she said. “I feel like there was like a week there where I wasn’t sure if I was going to be just living in another random house.”
For students living on campus, Hogan said the agreement for this semester is less restrictive in many ways than the Residential Community Agreement in place during the fall semester.
“In the fall you couldn’t have anyone in your private residential space without masks, occupancy limits and social distancing,” she said. “And that made sense, I think, for first years because they didn’t know each other and they weren’t coming to campus with established friend groups. But we felt like it was not going to work for upperclass students.”
Although students appreciated the opportunity to form pods, some acknowledged the difficulty that forming these pods could entail.
“So many people at Bowdoin have so many different friend groups and have very close friends from different groups … so how do you choose?” Emma Hahesy ’22 said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “Especially because we are probably going to be in our rooms a lot of the time, so that also adds more weight to your housing choices.”
Although members of the same pod can gather inside unmasked when the campus is in yellow status, Dean of Students Kristina Bethea Odejimi noted during the office hours that due to an executive order by Governor Janet Mills members of the same pod will not be permitted to gather outside without masks.
Hogan explained the decision to limit pods to students living in the same residential building.
“We thought about making pods across residential spaces, and after chatting with disease experts and really thinking through it epidemiologically, it did not make sense and was not going to set us up for being able to control an outbreak that might happen,” she said.
Hogan also clarified that each lettered building within Brunswick Apartments will be considered one residential building. All units in Mayflower Apartments will be considered one building.
Students were required to sign the Community Campus Agreement by the end of the day on December 1 via Blackboard if they wish to be in residence during the spring semester.
Despite the Agreement’s restrictions and expectations for a dramatically different college experience in the spring, for many students, the opportunity to return is cause enough for optimism.
“I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to have a social life, see people outside of our pod, as long as we are socially distant … a lot of that is what makes Bowdoin Bowdoin,” Hahesy said.