Move-in take two: Colorado College welcomes hundreds more students back to campus this spring
Plus, a student-run Zoom book club about the Green New Deal
Good morning, and happy Wednesday. On this pre-pandemic date last year, the Spanish House served coffee and sweets while hosting their blocky conversation for students to practice the language. (This year, only a select number of Colorado College students are allowed to live on campus and most in-person activities are conducted within pods.)
Today, leaders from the Residential Experience explain the move-in process for spring semester and student Residential Advisers describe their new role as the COVID police on campus. Plus, how one CC club is collectively processing climate anxiety through a book group.
➡️ICYMI: On Monday, our resident microbiologist Phoebe Lostroh gave her weekly forecast for El Paso County. She also explained Colorado’s plan for vaccine rollout.
🐯🏒Men’s ice hockey team under quarantine...again: The Gazette reported a CC hockey player tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday afternoon. Jerry Cross, Director of Athletics Communications, told The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project that approximately 30 people, among players, coaches and staff, were now under a 14-day quarantine.
“Our games against Denver have been postponed this weekend. We are hopeful we can find a way to make up the loss of any postponed games before the end of regular season,” Cross said. Be sure to read our coverage about the first time this happened in November.
✉️In Your Inbox:
On Monday, two students living in East Campus Housing tested positive for COVID-19. The college said the cases were not related.
Yesterday, a student living on West Campus received a positive test result and is now in isolation.
Last week, CC announced it would test all students living on campus and locally off campus for COVID-19 weekly. Faculty and staff are “strongly encouraged” to participate in weekly testing as well, and can make sure they’re included in the testing pool by filling out this survey.
CC’s Scientific Advisory Group answered frequently asked questions about COVID vaccines, which you can read about here.
Students under enhanced social distancing guidelines need to schedule an appointment to pick up their packages, which will be brought to them outside the northeast doors of Worner.
A de-densified campus, pods, and weekly testing: CC prepares to bring more students back for spring
“I wish I knew what I was getting myself into.”
That’s what one Colorado College first-year told The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project after being sent to quarantine at Bijou West last semester when she had a potential exposure to COVID-19. Two days after she arrived back on campus, the college put the residence hall where she was living under a 14-day quarantine.
Now, with spring move-in underway, leaders from the Residential Experience reflect on what went wrong last semester and what they’ve changed to ensure community safety and prevent hall-wide quarantines.
👋Goodbye, Pandemic Fall
Back in August, CC was hopeful they could pull off an in-person semester despite the pandemic. The college finalized plans to bring back first-year students for Block 1, and then have the rest of the student body move in the following block.
But despite all these efforts, students in CC’s three biggest residence halls all experienced quarantines early last semester.
“It really came down to students not understanding what enhanced social distancing meant,” Edwin Hamada, the Assistant Vice President for the Residential Experience at CC, told The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project. “They just were excited to be in college.”
Hamada said during fall move-in a student tested positive but didn’t follow enhanced social distancing, saying they had been “all over the place.” That’s why Loomis residents were put under quarantine, and similar situations then happened in Mathias and South Halls.
In October, the college announced their plan to “de-densify” the campus. They invited the following groups of students back to campus come spring: first-year students, seniors with housing assignments, new transfer, winter-start, and fall semester-away students, NCAA student-athletes, and international students. Sophomores and juniors outside of these categories would have to look for other options, The Gazette reported.
Hamada said they’re expecting to bring about 250 students back to campus who weren’t there for the fall semester, bringing the total number of students living on campus to a little under a thousand. Students will be spread out around campus, as residence halls are now capped at 50% capacity.
😷Looking ahead to Socially-Distanced Spring
In December, The Scientific Advisory Group advised the college to tweak move-in plans so that after a student’s initial arrival test, they follow enhanced social distancing protocols for ten days. After that period, they receive a second COVID test, and only after a negative result can students use campus freely. In addition, the college announced last week they will test all students for COVID-19 weekly.
Phoebe Lostroh, a CC professor in microbiology, said the college’s investment in contact tracing and other safety measures has been successful so far and “should be a model for other colleges and universities.” She added that not all other higher education institutions have the money to pay for the same safety measures as CC.
“The college’s success is due to our enormous wealth,” Lostroh said.
Hamada explained now that scientists know more about the virus, people understand if someone just recently contracted COVID, they might not have enough viral load for it to show up positive on a test. That doesn’t mean they won’t test positive for the virus a few days later, and they can still spread the virus before then.
That was the logic behind two arrival tests spaced out over a period of ten days, which Hamada called “additional safeguards.”
CC COVID-19 Emergency Manager Maggie Santos said that although there are more cases in El Paso County now compared to the beginning of the school year, CC’s frequent testing identifies cases quickly and stops the spread.
“I think we’ll have a semester where everybody can stay on campus,” Santos said.
Another change for spring is that instead of taking place over a week, students can move in throughout the entire month of January.
“From January on, we’ve been moving people in at random times,” Hamada said. “As long as their room is available, we’re ready to take people on, so there’s not necessarily a set moving day or dates.”
Hamada said that only a “handful” of students have been moving in each day, though more students tend to come on weekends because of their travel plans. While the number of students moving in may increase as Block 5 approaches, Hamada said the number of students moving in each day will reach “barely in the teens, at most.”
Students can sign up for an hour-long time slot to move into their residence halls. This time around, no parents or other guests are allowed to help students move their items into the building.
“We’re trying to limit the amount of people that enter the building that have not yet been tested or are not a part of our Colorado College community testing pool,” Kaylee Crivello, the Residential Life Coordinator (RLC) of Mathias Hall, told The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project.
For the most part, Crivello said time slots don’t exceed eight students at a time. She added that the walls in residence halls have reminders for students moving in to remain six feet away from others and to avoid huddles.
First-year student Katie Rowley, who moved into Loomis last week, said her biggest concern is CC sending her home again after only living on campus for a few weeks.
“If they do that, that’s going to be so stressful,” she said.
🚨Residential advisers on working through a pandemic
Residential advisers (RAs) are a staple of the college experience. They’re the ones who oversee hall life and make sure new students are settling in well and using substances responsibly.
This year, those responsibilities didn’t go away, but now the 55 RAs on campus are tasked with an additional job: making sure people follow pandemic risk-mitigation protocols to keep the community healthy.
The college decided to operate under a pod-living model for spring where students in a group of ten or less are each other’s main social contacts for the semester. People in pods live in rooms close to each other and share the same bathroom(s), Sarah Higgins ’23, an RA in South, said.
Quinn Eaheart ’23, an RA in Loomis, said that right now, pods are mainly used for contact tracing, but as students move in and finish their 10-day enhanced social distancing, RAs will hold blockly activities for pods.
Clare Quinn ’23, an RA in Mathias, said it is hard for freshmen right now who don’t have a friend group yet and “can’t really just go out on a whim and form a pod with some people.”
As students themselves, having to write up a group of students for not honoring COVID protocols can be “hard” at first, Kendall Accetta ’23, an RA in Mathias, said.
“We’ve also been taught to ask questions like, when was your last COVID test and when was the COVID test before that and kind of make these residents think on their feet,” Accetta said. “If they’re stumbling over when their last COVID test was ... then it’s pretty clear that they should be staying in the room.”
Accetta said the COVID mitigation rules are enforced similarly to how if someone is caught drinking or smoking. The RA files an incident report and collects student ID information, and the student has to attend a meeting with the RLC.
Crivello said about 80% of conduct cases this year are from people not honoring COVID risk-mitigation protocols. She emphasized that it wasn’t all students violating this policy, just the majority of the conduct cases she saw.
“I want to say compliance with policies has gotten a lot better,” Crivello said. Students do not want another lockdown and so there is more peer accountability than there was in the fall, she added.
One challenge for RAs is because people move in at different times, not everyone is in the enhanced social distancing period at once.
“When people are gathering together and eating together, we’re not allowed to necessarily ask them like, are you out of enhanced distancing,” Higgins said. “They could be out of it. I don't want to judge them and ... make assumptions.”
“If people can get away without wearing their mask they will,” an RA who preferred to remain anonymous said, referring to when students briefly step outside their room to use the restroom or walk around their hall.
With Block 5 starting next week and official move-in ending on Jan. 30, Maddi Schink ’23, an RA in Loomis, said the halls are starting to get busier and the atmosphere feels a little more like normal college life.
Schink said residence halls felt “a little bit like a ghost town” at the end of the last semester, but now as more people move in, she hears doors slamming every morning as people are up and around, and there are more posters about campus activities on the walls.
“It’s livening back up,” Schink said. “It’s feeling a little bit more like the college experience again, which is nice.”
Community in crisis: How a book club brought some CC students together
Some fifty years have passed since scientists sounded the alarm about anthropogenic climate change, and no one feels the urgency of the crisis more than the youngest generation, who will have to live with the worst effects of a warming planet.
Organizing for climate policy has accelerated in recent years, and while the pandemic presented a temporary barrier to activists, they soon found their footing again.
When the pandemic struck last March, the Colorado Springs chapter of Sunrise, a youth-led political movement organizing for a Green New Deal, had to figure out how to move all its programming online. In addition to the group’s weekly Zoom meetings, the online shift led several CC students to form an offshoot of the club itself — a book club.
The book club organizers picked “Winning the Green New Deal: Why We Must, How We Can” as their first read. CC provides their clubs with a yearly budget, and so Sunrise used some of those funds to reimburse members for purchasing the book.
“I knew we were looking for ways to keep Sunrise active while we’re online, and I knew I wanted to read this book,” Rosalee Bayer ’22, the main organizer of the book club, said. “I realized that it’d be a good way to both get more people access to the book and use our funds.”
The club ran from late September to the end of Winter Break, meeting once every one or two weeks depending on members’ schedules. One meeting, Jeremy Ornstein, a Sunrise national climate activist who wrote a personal story for the book, Zoomed in as a special guest.
Bayer said for the future of the club, should it continue, some potential changes she would suggest are launching a social media advertising campaign with key quotes from the book to attract more members, as well as making the club more accessible to people who might not be able to make every meeting or even read the whole book.
“I think maybe having another group that’s reading the whole book, but point out key chapters and point out the timeline of that at the beginning, so that people ... who aren't able to commit to reading the whole book know which chapters would be most critical for them to read,” Bayer said.
Bayer said her favorite chapter of the book was Chapter 11, which was called “People Power and Political Power.”
“I feel like it answers all the questions that I both had articulated before ... about what we’re achieving when we do smaller things like organize for Andrew Romanoff,” Bayer said, reflecting on the Colorado politician’s bid for Senate who Sunrise helped organize for last spring. “Even when he doesn’t win, and we don’t have big expectations for him to win ... every little thing that we do as a hub is growing the Green New Deal majority.”
Bayer said the turnout of the meetings “wasn’t huge” but her expectations were pretty low. “I was very happy with just having three to four people that were there almost every time,” she said.
She also noted the conversations were not so much the technical stuff discussed in the book but more about big takeaways, as well as a space for processing climate anxiety and political anxiety together.
In the wake of an existential crisis such as climate change, for some, processing the cost of failure can at times be daunting. That’s why Bayer saw value in organizing a smaller group where people could process the wider emotionally-harmful implications of the climate crisis together.
The Climate Psychiatry Alliance states that “the current and future effects of climate change on mental health are under-appreciated and under-studied.” A peer-reviewed study linked to the alliance’s website found the coping mechanisms of finding meaning, positive reappraisal and thinking, and trusting outside forces were helpful in promoting hopeful feelings and could be related to pro-environmental engagement. Sunrise’s book club could provide students with those coping mechanisms.
“I thought that was just a really good space,” she said. “I’m proud that we all were able to come every week and do that, because it’s been really hard, I feel like, for most clubs to have anything consistent right now.”
This newsletter required all hands on deck. Special thanks to Sarah Higgins ’23 for contributing to this report.
About the CC COVID-19 Reporting Project
The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project is created by Colorado College student journalists Isabel Hicks, Esteban Candelaria, Lorea Zabaleta, and Cameron Howell in partnership with The Catalyst, Colorado College’s student newspaper. Work by Phoebe Lostroh, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology at CC and National Science Foundation Program Director in Genetic Mechanisms, Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, will appear every Monday.
The project seeks to provide frequent updates about CC and other higher education institutions during the pandemic by providing original reporting, analysis, interviews with campus leaders, and context about what state and national headlines mean for the CC community.