Students needed more information about campus closure

Photo courtesy of the Office of Marketing & Communications, Ramapo College of New Jersey

Photo courtesy of the Office of Marketing & Communications, Ramapo College of New Jersey

We are in the second week of online classes in a semester that has been forever changed by COVID-19. There are many mixed emotions that I am sure people across campus are feeling about the sudden closure of the college for social distancing.

However, there is a certain reality that all of us must face: COVID-19 is an incredibly infectious and dangerous disease that must be taken seriously. In that regard, Ramapo College and the Emergency Preparedness Team have done well with regards to protecting students on campus. 

As of Wednesday, April 1, we currently know of five individuals who were on campus sometime before spring break who tested positive for COVID-19. To protect students, faculty, administration and all of those who help make our campus run smoothly, the college has been shut down.

Yet there is some criticism to be made in how the campus closure occurred. To begin with, the college did not properly notify students living on campus that the dorms were going to be closing for such an extended period of time – initial estimations assumed we would return to campus this Friday, April 3.

Information was not spread properly to allow students to make important decisions regarding their belongings. Thus, when the college closed, many people had stuff that was left behind in the dorms that were important for the remainder of the semester.

How did this happen? The college canceled classes for Friday, March 13, so they could push students home faster. Most students who were living on campus had already returned home by Thursday or Friday, expecting to be able to return to campus at the end of spring break.

The following day, the first person from our community tested positive for COVID-19. The college went into immediate lockdown for deep cleaning, forcing any remaining students on-campus to leave by 9 a.m.

I was one of those students still on campus. Campus closing meant we had to leave, so the people who were still there grabbed what they could and left. 

Since then, the college dorms have been closed for the remainder of the semester and residents will be issued refunds based on the remaining time left in the semester. Yet people have not been able to grab all of their belongings and many items are still locked up in their dorms. 

The college implemented a 15-minute time window where one could come in and go to their dorm to get any necessary belongings that they needed. The issue was that this policy was announced on Tuesday and is ending this Friday.

The objective is to save lives, and to that regard, the college has succeeded. However, I think there are definitely improvements that could be made for the future. Students should be made aware of decisions to close the college so that they can make informed choices. 

If residents knew that the college would be closed indefinitely over spring break, then many people would have completely packed up their dorms voluntarily. Now we're in a situation where many people need to return to retrieve their possessions, and I am unsure how the college will handle this further.