by, Katherine Heneghan & Zoe DeFazio, Web Editor & Staff Writer
Following the sharp rise in positive coronavirus cases on campus, a decision was made by the One-Manhattan coronavirus task force, to de-densify Jasper Hall. Jasper Hall offers traditional style dorms with communal bathrooms, which has presented a challenge in terms of quarantine mandates.
Charles Clency, director of Residence Life, told The Quadrangle, “Jasper was targeted in particular because in those first five or six weeks of classes, there were multiple floors going down (to quarantine). When there was a positive person on the floor, it would take down the whole floor because they shared a communal bathroom.”
When one student on the floor tested positive, the entire floor was mandated to quarantine. This strategy was effective in catching possible positives.
“We did see many cases where people we placed in quarantine turned positive while they were quarantining. We saw that multiple times in Jasper,” Clency said.
Jasper Hall ordinarily holds about 250 students, however at the start of the spring 2021 semester, there were 171 residents living in Jasper Hall among it’s six floors. In response to the spike in cases, One Manhattan and Residence Life decided reducing the number of residents would assist in the quarantine situation both on and off campus.
“Our goal was to get it down by 50 students,” Clency said.
The rest of the process included students volunteering to move into a different residence hall as a means to keep their same roommates.
“We approached it initially by asking students who wanted to move and to volunteer to move prior to the announcement coming out from the COVID task force announcing the mandate. We didn’t get any takers. Majority of the people who ended up deciding to move, basically volunteered after they understood the circumstances that we were in. By far the majority of them willingly left to seize the opportunity to keep their same roommates,” Clency said.
Molly McLoughlin, a civil engineering major, was recently put into quarantine among the majority of campus. Shortly after her two week isolation period she found herself having to move out of her dorm and into another building with not a lot of time to spare.
The decision was announced in a quick manner which raised some concerns from students. Mainly due to the fact that students were rushed out of their dorm and ordered to move during midterm week.
“We were ordered to move during midterms week so it was rough trying to study and also move across campus,” McLoughlin said. “Especially with all the bridges being closed. So the moving process was difficult. It took me an entire week to move in the middle of midterms.”
“Perhaps if we were warned earlier about the situation then maybe things would have gone smoother. I came out of quarantine and then I was ordered to move within a few days which isn’t fair considering that I had spent two weeks in quarantine and I’m trying to study for midterms.”
The vast decision to de-densify Jasper Hall has put the building’s residents in a difficult place. From being put into isolation for two weeks, to studying for midterms and now having to pack up everything and move across campus with short notice.
Jennifer Boyle, a chemical engineering major and lacrosse player, was also in quarantine and faced the same issues as McLoughlin.
“As someone who had to quarantine due to a non-sports team contact I think that this process has definitely been positive on that front. I now live with all athletes so we aren’t in contact with as many other people now,” Boyle said. “It is still a tough situation that can’t be completely avoided or fixed because there is still the risk of needing to quarantine due to team related issues.”
The decision to lighten the load for Jasper Hall is only for the good of students and staff’s health. This semester has seen a spike in cases and the de-densification is to ensure everyone’s safety and is just a precaution in order to decrease positive cases.
“I do feel like this was the right decision however, I think the school should have seen this coming earlier and done something sooner,” Boyle said. “The pandemic has forced us all to be very flexible on campus and I think the de-densifying process showed that. We had to be ready to move out within days of returning to campus. There’s no one to blame for this because I believe the school is doing their best to adapt as well to keep us all safe.”