by, Jilleen Barrett & Lauren Raziano, A&E Editor & Social Media Editor
As more students on campus are contact-traced and put into quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a growing number of complaints have arisen about quarantine living conditions on campus. Students feel the biggest issue is that the college seems to look at students as a statistic in their COVID case count, and their needs are not being adequately addressed.
Students at Manhattan College are met with two options when they are instructed to isolate: they can quarantine off-campus or on campus in Horan Hall, where suites are reserved for exposed students. Individuals who are placed in quarantine are required to have their own room and bathroom, so students placed in Horan Hall are given their own suite.
Due to safety and privacy concerns, the quarantine floors in Horan are not identified but there are 60 individual suites that are sanctioned by Manhattan College specifically for quarantine students. When these suites are at capacity, Manhattan has a contract with Springhill Suites by Marriott in Tuckahoe, NY that can house another 140 students in individual rooms.
While students are in quarantine either in Horan or the hotel, they rely on Dining Services and Residence Life to bring them three meals per day. Giuseppe Tumminello and Fred Cipriani are sophomores who live on campus in Jasper Hall, who were contact-traced due to a positive case on their floor. They explained how the food order form works.
“We have a Google form that we are emailed the day before and it’s a new Google form everyday,” Tumminello said. “And it‘s very limited on food options and a lot of the food options are the same everyday.”
If a student does not fill out this order form by 5 p.m., they do not receive food the next day, and they may not receive the link to order food afterwards. Cipriani detailed how he went without a meal for two days.
“I forgot [to fill it out] Sunday for Monday,” Cipriani said. “And I didn’t get food Monday or the link, so I didn’t get food either… once you fill it out, you continue to get the link.”
Sophomore Maura McCarthy was also in a 14-day quarantine in Horan and spoke about her experience, which demonstrated some consistencies with Cipriani and Tumminello’s. However, when she was not delivered a meal on her second day of quarantine, she called Residence Life and was delivered food shortly after.
McCarthy noted that there was a point of contact during her time in isolation: Jacqueline Martin, coordinator of campus health and safety. According to McCarthy, Martin called her consistently throughout her time in isolation.
“She actually called me one day– I didn’t even know she had my number– just to check in,” McCarthy said. “But I emailed her a couple times because I had packages coming that I needed. So I actually ordered some food through Amazon or other places and she was able to pick it up from the mailroom and bring it to me.”
According to Martin, the school is attempting to make the quarantines go as smoothly as possible for students. She also said that students can reach out to her at email@example.com if their meals are not delivered.
“It is important to us that all of the students in quarantine have as positive of an experience as possible during their quarantine. We understand that it can be a very challenging experience for students in included food they could not eat.
Byrne, a sophomore who tested positive for COVID, has a gluten allergy and received several meals that included foods with gluten in them.
“The first day I put [on the order form] that I was gluten free and they brought me a regular bagel which I cannot eat. A couple of days later, they sent me a sandwich with regular bread and a breaded chicken patty,” Byrne wrote in an Instagram direct message. “Things like this occurred a couple of times throughout my time in quarantine. But they also would just skip meals and not send me anything for lunch or dinner sometimes.”
Runolffson is a freshman and requested a COVID test after showing symptoms during her isolation period in a room at the hotel. She had not yet been given a test when she spoke to The Quadrangle on her sixth full day in quarantine. She is a vegetarian and despite indicating her diet on the order form, she did not receive meatless meals. She was promised a vegetarian meal by multiple people, including Martin and Residence Life, on the night she was dropped off in quarantine. She did not receive any food until the following night.
“They didn’t bring me something to eat until like six o’clock the next day so all I had was the bread off of the salami sandwich,” Runolffson said.
At this point, Runolffson decided to take to social media to advocate for herself.
“I’m a vegetarian all I’ve had to eat in quarantine in the past 24 hours is the bread off a salami sandwich you gave me,” she commented on a recent post on the school’s Instagram page, @manhattanedu.
Runolfsson said that after that comment was made, “somebody immediately came here, and that was at nighttime, and they brought me a bag of [vegetarian] food that was from the dining hall.”
Since then, she has been provided with both vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals.
However, access to water became an issue as well. Students reported that upon their arrival they were only given two bottles of water. The lack of water prompted some to have to ration it. Alex Nieves explained the situation in a Letter to the Editor.
“I have only been given 2 water bottles to drink over 48 hours,” wrote Nieves.
Alex Nieves, who also serves as the vice president of finance for the Student Government Association, shared his complaints with his fellow board members, prompting the SGA to coordinate the distribution of water to every student in Horan quarantine.
“Since we’ve identified that quarantine residents need to have access to water, we have purchased 180 gallons of water to be delivered directly to Horan Hall, where most quarantine students sit,” Nieves continued in his letter. “The school has responded in saying that they will not deliver this water as their policy states that they will only deliver what Aramark purchases.”
Unfortunately, Runolfsson did not receive any of the gallons of Poland Spring water provided to the isolated students by the Student Government Association as she is staying in the hotel.
Byrne had the same experience as Runolffson after alerting dining services to their allergy. They still received some gluten free meals and some non-gluten free meals, and none of them had enough sustenance or nutrition value to count as a full meal.
“The other day they brought me a salad with croutons though and I obviously can’t eat that. It’s really just up in the air,” they wrote. “I get a piece of fruit and a gluten free cookie but the actual meals themselves aren’t consistent. And they especially haven’t been consistently gluten free.”
In terms of how they felt about the situation, Byrne admitted they were not surprised.
“Would it be bad to say that I expected it?” they wrote. “I didn’t really expect the school to provide me consistent meals. I knew that quarantining in Horan meant I probably wasn’t going to be fed well. However, I didn’t have the option to go home and quarantine. This was my only option and I went in really expecting the worst.”
After returning to their dorm, Byrne found that the lack of access they had to food during their isolation period had affected their physical health.
“I just weighed myself today when I got back into my actual dorm room,” Byrne wrote. “I lost 6 pounds as of today. It’s an amalgamation of not being fed consistently and stress from being in quarantine.”
Unfortunately, students do not have the option to reach out to a designated resident assistant as a resource. As a precaution there are no RAs living near isolated students and also because there are no permanent residents that are housed on the quarantine floors, which was confirmed by Clency in an email to The Quadrangle.
“Residence Life does not have any Resident Assistants housed on any of the quarantine floors,” he wrote in an email. “Nevertheless, the RAs on-duty are required to implement duty tours 2-3 times daily, which includes these designated floors.”
The 10 to 14 days students spend in quarantine is an unfortunate time to lack the aid of an RA, especially when students need support. However, Clency defended the decision to station his staff separately from isolated students in an interview.
“…first and foremost, that is not a designated residential spot where we assign people for the whole semester, and hypothetically if no one ever went into quarantine, quite honest with you, that means we would have our RAs who are not not busy, don’t have a population to serve. The second part is that we’re not trying to put any of our RAs, our students, staff in any kind of harm’s way. …..We can’t put them in an environment where we know that it’s a possibility that they can contract any unwarranted COVID virus, it’s a safety call on that notion in terms of taking care of our students.”
Nieves also wrote about how many students, including himself, did not receive enough food on Saturday, Feb. 27. Since this event occurred during out-of-office hours on the weekend, the administration reacted slowly to this alarming issue.
“Me and others on my board have been emailing people trying to get a fix for today,” Nieves wrote. “Nobody is working, so nobody is helping. We’ve had one response, but I’ve yet to see any food yet. Since we’ve identified that quarantine residents need to have access to water, we have purchased 180 gallons of water to be delivered directly to Horan Hall, where most quarantine students sit. The school has responded in saying that they will not deliver this water as their policy states that they will only deliver what Aramark purchases. Student government was able to distribute 3 jugs of water to every quarantined student within an hour. This goes to show that if the administration wanted to, they could.”
His letter also detailed how the SGA attempted to advocate for the quarantined students, but cannot do so without the school supporting them in their actions.
In addition to food issues, some sources cited cleanliness problems. Tumminello recalled that his quarantine dorm in Horan was not properly cleaned and he felt uncomfortable as it felt as if someone was already there.
“They did not give me any cleaning supplies, I know they said that the rooms were supposed to be cleaned.” Tumminello said. “They did give me some toilet paper, which is great, but the roll that was in the bathroom was still half used and not replaced before I moved in.”
During the public COVID-19 Town Hall meeting on Feb 23. 2021 that was shared with students, Residence Life director Charles Clency explained the process of cleaning the rooms before students move-in.
“These rooms will already be pre-cleaned and sanitized, we have just under 60 room spaces,” he said. “In order to use these and rotate them, naturally it can get busy, but you can and should be assured that your room will be clean and sanitized prior to your arrival.”
In an interview with The Quadrangle, Clency further described what a student should do if there is a maintenance issue when they arrive into their quarantine space.
“If there’s a problem, let us know right away and we will make every attempt to get you another assignment,” Clency said. “We’ve had it happen… Fortunately, and I will tell you, out of the literal hundreds of people we’ve had go through quarantine since the beginning of the fall, I can count on one hand, how many times, somebody has went into a room where they have not had a functional toilet or that it wasn’t clean. I mean we’ve done our due diligence to try to fix that problem.”
The effects of quarantine were summed up by Nieves in his letter.
“It feels like a prison here,” he wrote. “We aren’t being fed. We aren’t being given water. We tried to help, but the school would rather enact policy changes over helping those in here. Common decency and humanity are only second to that of administrative ruling. As I sit here, I wonder why we are being treated like this, and how the school will make this better. I have to remind myself that this is not the fault of the people living in quarantine, though it becomes easy to blame yourself when you sit here. It’s difficult to distract yourself here – I can’t focus on my work because this injustice clouds my mind.”