ANIKA BANERJEE ‘24 (SHE/HER)
In March of 2020, many schools and colleges went online because of COVID-19. Bringing school back in person required numerous changes to safeguard the health and safety of students and faculty. Prior to the pandemic, students living on campus were able to use their CatCards to enter any residence hall; since the fall of 2020, when students were permitted to return to campus, administrators restricted CatCards to only allow entrance into the residence hall a student lives in.
Along with limited CatCard access, other restrictions were made to contain social interaction and the spread of the virus: controlled guest policies, mask requirements in residence halls and outdoors, and mostly online or hybrid classes. Each of those constraints have been lifted as Davidson has contained COVID-19, except for CatCard access into all residence halls.
Samantha Ewing ‘23, a transfer student from the University of Georgia, provided insight as to how other schools manage student card access into residence halls. “I can only speak to UGA, but I would assume that most state schools are similar. Student ID cards were used for your hall, and you did not need it to get into any academic buildings—those were unlocked during most daytime hours,” said Ewing. “For residence halls, it was the same as Davidson is now, you could only use your card to enter your specific hall.”
Ewing contended that the policies at the University of Georgia made sense for that environment because of the location and size of the university. “There are higher crime rates in Athens, and there are more people in the college town that are not students but who possibly look like students and could pass [as] students. So, it made a lot of sense to me at UGA that you’d have to go swipe your friends in,” stated Ewing. Davidson’s small student population and tight-knit relationship with the town creates a trust-based environment which mitigates many of these safety concerns.
Even as most other COVID-19 policies have been shelved, students remain confused as to why CatCard access policies have not been revised. Ewing draws attention to this disparity in Davidson’s COVID policies. She stated, “If we are allowed to be in residence halls, have guests in our room, and not have to wear masks in the lounges and community areas, there shouldn’t really be any reason that other students cannot swipe into any residence hall.”
Walter Snipes, the Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life, clarified where the policies for these COVID restrictions stemmed from. “Compared to last year, there are certain policies that were able to change, and there are other policies that are still in effect right now. So, I think once COVID is over, we will start to think about how we need to move forward in terms of access… nothing right now is set in stone,” said Dean Snipes.
Along with COVID policies, there are general safety concerns that must be taken into consideration. Dean Snipes explained that making students feel safe and comfortable in their dorms is the number one priority, and that it is hard to please everyone when each student will have differing needs and views on what should be done. For those reasons, Dean Snipes and other faculty in charge of COVID policies have tried to take a utilitarian approach.
Dean Snipes also spoke to how reverting policies back to normal can be a challenge. “There are certain things, I think, once you flip the switch, it is difficult to bring back. We learned that last year with the guest policy going from one guest to no guest, then back to one, which was confusing.” For these reasons, they are choosing to work with CatCard policies through a slow process.
Kat Soltany ‘22, Chair of the Honor Council, shared her opinions on the matter as well. As a member of the Delilahs a capella group, she recently had a run-in with the difficulties that stem from the CatCard restriction. A few weeks ago, the a cappella group had to travel to Graham, North Carolina to record their album. Since this recording session was on a Saturday at 6:30 in the morning, several members slept through their alarms. The group tried to call the members that were still asleep but being able to enter the building would have been much more effective.
She was also able to provide a perspective on how the Honor Code and safety correlate with the CatCard restrictions. “I think the point of our Honor Code is for a more holistic view of honor. While I deal with strictly academic related violations, I think the whole point of the Honor Code is to have our campus feel more like a tight-knit community, with trust and integrity,” said Soltany. “And the thing that’s complicated is that I understand the COVID side of CatCard restrictions, but for trust, what has changed since Fall 2019? That’s what I’m questioning.”
Since COVID-19 policies have been done away with and there have been no reported safety problems, students are confused as to why residential CatCard access has not been reinstated.
Highlighting the complexity of the issue, Dean snipes said that the timeline of the future of CatCard access was ambiguous. “As one of the last policies still remaining as the college manages COVID-19, the return of ‘community access’ for certain residential halls is symbolic in that it will show things are closer to being as they were before COVID-19.”