Molly Seaman ’21
Olivia Schultz ’21 lives in a house close to campus with other CC seniors. Her house agreed on their specific COVID protocols early on in the pandemic. “We felt that it was important to establish rules early on so that we were all on the same page about what everyone was comfortable with and so there was no confusion. As the situation changes, we can reevaluate our rules and adjust as needed.”
Schultz’s household has adapted to the pandemic by attentively enforcing the rule that everyone living in the house is only permitted to see people outside of the home while wearing masks, while outside, and while maintaining social distancing protocols. She explains that these protocols are still possible to maintain as the weather gets colder. “While [our protocols] have and will make it difficult for us to see our friends, especially as the weather changes, we have started converting our garage into a warmer hangout space with good ventilation.”
The college can enforce COVID protocols for students living on-campus, but Colorado College students living off-campus during the pandemic mostly establish their own safety measures. The three-year residency requirement is lifted for the 2020-21 academic year, so first-year, sophomore, and junior students are allowed to live off-campus for this academic year. However, most of the students remaining in Colorado Springs in off-campus housing are seniors, as seniors typically choose to live off-campus.
The similarity between off-campus and on-campus living for current CC students lies in their requirement to follow risk-mitigation protocols and to group into “pods,” social and living units of no more than 10 students. Kaylee Crivello, residential life coordinator for Mathias Hall and Arthur House, clarifies the working definition of “pods” for on-campus students, a definition that will apply more aptly in the future: “A pod is a group of 6-10 students that share an RA and live in close proximity to each other in their residence hall. These students most likely use a shared bathroom. Pods will be piloted in Loomis, Mathias and South Halls (the ‘big three’), first-year residential halls. The Residential Experience team intends to expand the model to other residential communities.”
“Pods will be assigned by RLCs and pod programming will be led by RAs. The intention is to cultivate a COVID-resilient community by promoting interactions among residents that already share resources (an RA, RLC, etc.) and spaces (hall, bathrooms, common areas, etc.) to limit the spread of the virus. This is one step toward COVID-19 mitigations; while additionally, through pod programming and intentional conversations, residents have the opportunity to build close relationships close to their home-away-from-home.”
This iteration of pods has not come to fruition yet, and there are many nuances in the existing rules for off-campus students. Off-campus households must clarify these nuances on their own.
Karston Barney ’21, also a senior CC student living in an off-campus household, points out that the colder weather requires even more attentiveness to COVID protocols. “The biggest rules we have set up are everybody wears a mask in the house. Originally, we would only make non-CC individuals wear a mask inside. We assumed that since CC students are getting tested approximately every two weeks, it would be fine. However, with the rise in cases and flu season forthcoming, we decided that we should enforce a strict mask policy indoors.”
“Now, it’s especially important to set up these rules. With the uptick in cases nationally and with flu season on its way, we must do our part to protect ourselves and others.”
While maintaining risk-mitigation protocols is important, it is also important to live, to have some freedom. Isabella Flores ’21 and Schultz both state that their houses are looser about mask-wearing and open-air meeting places in the context of romantic relationships and other specific nuances. Schultz details her household’s reasoning:
“Part of our rules can be broken as long as the risk level is very low. For example, if a friend needs to use our bathroom we will let them as long as we know how safe they have been and that they have recently received a negative test. Any other intention to break the rules must be discussed by all members of the house to assess the risk associated with breaking the rules.”
Barney explains that his house sometimes loosens their protocols too. “The only time the rules are ‘broken’ per se, are for very specific individuals or houses. These are people that we trust and know to be following their own safety protocols. We are in a ‘pod’ so to speak. However, if anyone outside of that pod visits, we will all wear masks.”
When speaking about the possible fluidity of COVID protocols within her house, Flores commented on the importance of housemates ensuring that everyone remains in agreement. “Communication is key. Texting in the group chat to see if people are okay with you bringing someone over can help avoid an awkward situation. Also, having a meeting every so often in order to discuss guidelines is helpful for keeping everyone on the same page.” Ultimately, as the pandemic continues to pose new problems to solve, CC students are continuing to adapt and to make the most of the situation. Schultz notes that social activities don’t have to cease entirely: “We can all still find ways to be together while still being safe and minimizing spread!”