Off Campus Apartments | Photo by Diana Jaber | The Wright State Guardian
Open selection for on-campus housing for next fall began Feb. 20, which raised questions about how Wright State University’s (WSU) housing office plans to maintain or adjust operations in regard to coronavirus developments.
Major operational changes in the coming semesters to WSU’s residence life and housing depend on vaccination rollout.
“We’re hoping to get to the new normal,” Director of Residence Life and Housing Dan Bertsos said. “A lot of it is going to boil down to how soon college students can get vaccinated for COVID.”
As coronavirus continues to spread, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported the emergence of multiple variants to the initial strain of the virus. If these variants continue to spread, current vaccines will become ineffective.
Given this information, it is anticipated that WSU may follow suit with other universities and begin regularly testing residential students in the coming semesters as well. This is to ensure the virus remains contained on campus and that current vaccines are still effective.
If vaccination rollout is effective, some of WSU’s previous coronavirus housing regulations will likely be lifted.
“We would like to let those who want to have roommates, have them,” Bertsos said. “I’m hoping we’re going to be able to do more face-to-face time, that people can have guests again and do things without worrying about COVID.”
The current on-campus mask mandate, however, will remain in effect through the foreseeable future.
What’s already been done?
Starting in fall of 2020, WSU established new housing regulations to align with CDC and Ohio Department of Health (ODH) recommendations. On top of a mask mandate, changes included allowing only one resident per dorm and restrictions on visitation and in-person gatherings.
According to Bertsos, safety protocols have been successful in limiting positive cases in student housing to just 37.
The main consideration for these actions was students’ health and wellbeing. Physical health was the primary concern, however, providing necessary accommodations to students struggling with mental health in isolation was also a priority.
One such accommodation was the creation of the Residential Academic Ambassador (RAA) position. RAA’s support students’ academic success in their online or in-person classes by serving as in-house tutors and student advocates.
Karissa Patrick is currently an RAA working in The Woods.
“I think having us [RAA’s] here supporting students through these difficult circumstances has been really important,” Patrick said. “Being alone in a dorm and doing online classes all day can be mentally taxing and we’ve been able to, in some way, relieve that.”
The RAA position is something Bertsos hopes to keep as part of residential life in the coming semesters as well.
Many circumstances regarding housing in the upcoming semesters are subject to change because of coronavirus’ fluctuating circumstances. As more information is brought in regarding these changes, WSU’s housing office is prepared to be flexible in adjusting to students’ requests.
“If it turns out that we go through room selection and we’re still pretty conservative in how we do [that process], but then things change in the next five months,” Bertsos said. “People who want to make a change will be able to do so.”