Freshman move-in day will look a little different this year. With the class of 2024 beginning to move into on-campus residences Monday under strict coronavirus prevention guidelines established by university personnel and state and local officials.
While the coronavirus pandemic has dashed any hope for a normal transition to on-campus living, incoming freshmen — including Liam Walsh, a civil engineering major — are doing their best to navigate the altered expectations and get settled before class begins.
“I’m going to be on my own figuring it out. So, sure, it’s going to be more hectic than I think was originally expected,” Walsh said. “We’re trying to adapt and make it work.”
For Walsh, a student-athlete from Ontario, Canada, the move was further complicated when his parents were not allowed to travel with him due to restrictions in place to prevent the spread of the virus.
Despite these limitations, Walsh said he recognizes the uncertainty of the pandemic and that he trusts university and local officials to make the right decisions in terms of student health and safety.
“If they felt it was unsafe, they wouldn’t be making this decision,” Walsh said of the university’s commitment to return to on-campus housing. “There are people smarter than me making that decision.”
Several of these policies have changed the process of how students are moving to campus this fall. Outlined on the Housing and Residence Life section of the university’s website, all in-coming students are limited in how, and when, they can move into their temporary campus homes.
All new residents are required to schedule an exact time to check-in to their university housing assignments. From there, students have a two-hour window in which they, with the help of a maximum of two other people, can move all of their belongings into their room.
Policy decisions are being communicated to students through regular emails. In one such correspondence from July, the university outlined many of the 2020 housing policies. These policies include no guests inside residence halls, restricted access to common areas and a strict facemask requirement for any resident not inside their dorm room.
Before any student is eligible to be held to these policies, they must first test negative for COVID-19. Tests will continue throughout the semester and measures are in place in the event that a student tests positive for the virus.
In terms of how Walsh plans to handle these heightened restrictions, he is trying to remain focused on a positive start to his on-campus life.
“If the library is open, or if there are other spots on campus to work, I’ll be trying to get out of my dorm as much as possible,” Walsh said. “Just to make it feel like I’m not in a cage.”
On-campus instruction was suspended in March when it became increasingly apparent that additional steps would have to be taken in order to prevent the campus spread of the coronavirus. Although classes transitioned to remote instruction, university president Dr. David Rudd said that nearly 700 students remained in on-campus housing for the latter part of the Spring term.
Over the course of the Summer semester, the University of Memphis continued to house nearly 400 students. Among those students, there were zero positive cases of the coronavirus.
As a distinguished professor of psychology and a father, Dr. Rudd said he understands the importance of comfort and safety in terms of a student’s success.
“I think the indications are certainly promising that it can be effectively managed,” Rudd said. “If there is any emergence of a problem, we will respond immediately.”