By Katie Stewart ’23, Staff Writer
Carson Crochet ’22 was supposed to be in Germany right now. While she had plans to study there through Fall 2020, she only made it five weeks into the program last spring before she had to return home due to COVID-19. By the time she realized she would not be able to return to Germany at all, most students had determined their housing, and she was unsure if she would be able to get a room on campus. Knowing she wanted to return to Davidson, Crochet turned to off-campus housing.
Crochet was not the only student whose living situation became uncertain due to the semester’s new complications. In order to accommodate scenarios like Crochet’s, the college changed its housing policy rules this year — students no longer needed to ask permission to live off-campus.
“In a normal, typical year, the number of students who are given off-campus permission is a function of the number of students who we’re expecting to be in town, taking class,” Associate Dean of Students Jason Shaffer said. He explained, however, that the college realized that on-campus housing is not the best option for everyone this year. Thus, in order to secure off-campus housing permission, all students had to do was notify the college they were not going to live on-campus.
According to Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life Walter Snipes, the college worked with students whose plans changed and wanted to live on campus.
“For those students who are saying, ‘Hey, I don’t know whether or not my abroad program is going to occur, can I both be eligible for abroad and get a room?,’ we said, ‘No, but [that] we would support you in case your program gets cancelled.’ So when the program gets cancelled, we basically try to set up enough space for them, even including converting our lounges to residential spaces so that way we can assign them after we [get] confirmation,” Dean Snipes said.
According to Dean Snipes, 1467 students are currently living on campus, while 515 students are off campus or remote.
While securing permission for off-campus housing might have been easier this year, some students worry about having to quarantine in their off-campus homes rather than on campus.
“At the beginning, we were all under the assumption that if one of us were to get sick, we’d be able to quarantine on campus or isolate away from the others,” said Crochet, who lives with three roommates. “And when we contacted the school asking about that, they never gave an answer, they just didn’t say anything. And it wasn’t until […] the first couple weeks that they were like, ‘So there’s actually no isolation room for y’all on campus.’”
As for why the school is not allowing off-campus students to quarantine on campus, an email from Davidson’s Chief Communications and Marketing Officer Mark Johnson on behalf of the COVID Response team said that the reason is twofold.
For one, the email stated that they are worried about exposing other students living on campus to people who are potentially infected. “Our campus residence halls make up a densely populated, highly mobile residential community. That presents a distinct set of challenges for managing public health concerns, such as preventing the spread of illness among community bathrooms and other shared resources.”
The second reason, according to Johnson’s email, is that they want to ensure the quarantine beds do not fill up. “If those beds fill up and we do not have enough beds when additional cases arise in on-campus housing, we will have to pivot in a way that would likely have a direct impact on all students living on and off campus.”
Nonetheless, the COVID Response team clarified that the school will provide resources to students who are quarantining off campus. This support includes phone check-ins with the Student Health Center’s nursing staff.
Some students forced to quarantine off campus, however, have found the situation extremely challenging. One of Michaela Gibbons 22’s housemates tested positive for coronavirus, which means her housemate has a 10-day quarantine, and Gibbons and her other housemates have a 24-day quarantine. In terms of health advising, she says her roommate — who is asymptomatic — checks his oxygen levels every day and is enrolled in Davidson’s virtual hospital, although they have not received any information from it. As for everyone else living in the house, they are asked to record their temperature on a piece of paper every day, but no one from the college has collected these results.
And as for how off-campus students can get access to food while quarantining, Dean Shaffer pointed to many of the same solutions people who are not students use.
“Most of them were […] ordering groceries or takeout food to be delivered at their place; others were using friend networks to be able to [get meals],” Dean Shaffer said.
The COVID Response team also stated that students who had to quarantine off-campus could convert 14 days of meal swipes into dining dollars that could then be carried over into next semester and, if necessary, next year. Seniors who get these dining dollars can receive a refund if they are not completely used up by the time they graduate.
Quarantining is not the only concern about off-campus living this year, however, and some have raised questions about whether or not those who live off campus are subject to the same strict visitor guidelines as those living on campus. According to Davidson College Police Chief Julian Coaxum via an email, “The restriction on visitation [and] guest[s] applies to campus residence facilities, as these are densely populated residential communities. However, students living off campus are expected and encouraged to follow recommended safety protocols to protect each other and their fellow students and to follow city, county, and state health guidelines.”
Dean Snipes confirmed this statement and said that RLO held a meeting before the start of the semester with off-campus students, as well as the Town of Davidson’s Police Chief Penny Dunn, in which they were instructed to refrain from holding or attending any off-campus gatherings.
Katie Frank `22 lives off-campus this year and attended the meeting.
“They kind of went over expectations and guidelines, and they made it pretty explicitly clear that we were in the Town of Davidson’s domain now, and so we needed to be respectful to not only the students on campus but also the residents of the town itself,” Frank said.“They were also pretty explicit about, like, we’re being held to the same standards that the on-campus students are as well.”
As of September 11th, Chief Coaxum said that the college had not received any reports of large gatherings in off-campus housing.
As for Crochet, while she’s not in Germany, she does report that off-campus housing has been working well for her.
“I think [living off-campus has] been ideal. I live with three of my closest friends on campus, like we’re our own little pod. Being able to be around three people in a close setting — I didn’t realize how important that is.”