On Aug. 16, the University of Memphis announced that classes would continue as previously scheduled.
When those in-person classes were announced and the mask mandate on campus was lifted for those that were vaccinated, University of Memphis students were ecstatic for life to get back to normal.
As the summer progressed and the delta variant rose to prominence, however, their hopes for a regular college experience quickly diminished.
On top of having to mask up again, students who live on campus have, once again, had to adapt to life during a pandemic and the effect it has had on residence life at the university.
Part of that means dealing with living conditions that are vastly different from the pre-COVID-19 dorm rules that they knew.
“Anytime we are not in our rooms, we have to have a mask on whether that’s going to the bathroom or anywhere in the building," said Jerzie Matthews, a freshman who lives in Rawls Hall.
She also mentioned other dilemmas for students living in the dorms.
On top of the natural hiccups that come from living with roommates, students now must navigate a new dynamic between each other. Some people are more relaxed and do not mind guests in their rooms, while others are cautious with who enters their place.
Roommates are often among the first people freshmen meet on campus, yet for some, forming bonds and communicating with suitemates under these conditions puts a rift in that crucial moment in their college experience.
“We just stick to our sides of the room,” Matthews said.
The university has put several measures in place to protect students like Matthews who live on campus and it boasts that most people on campus follow the rules it implemented.
Its most recent mask report, for example, showed a high rate of compliance. According to the report, from April 12 to April 18, 88 percent of people on campus wore a mask and 77 percent wore it correctly.
“Classroom experiences from recent semesters have shown that the campus community generally understands and complies voluntarily with the mask requirement,” the university said in a statement.
Other students that live on campus also made clear that the university ensures compliance in the dorms.
Jackey Pham, a freshman who lives on campus at Centennial Place, said that RAs, Residence Life Coordinators, and other University of Memphis staff talk to students that don’t follow the university’s COVID-19 guidelines.
“If you’re not wearing your mask up, they’ll definitely warn you a couple times, but they’ll report you if you don’t follow their standards,” he said.
Despite what both the university and other students have said, Matthews said that she is concerned when students who do not live on campus come to the university.
She said that she noticed a pattern among those who live in residence halls versus those who commute to campus.
For her, it feels that it is as if the off-campus students do not feel the need to wear a mask even though it is mandated by both Shelby County and the University of Memphis.
“You can definitely tell the difference between students that live off campus and on campus because a lot of the students on campus stick to the rules even in the classroom,” she said.
And even with all the rules in place, Matthews said that there is still a threat of catching the delta variant.
“If you go out you run the risk of catching it,” she said.