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First ‘Flex’ semester sparks unanswered student questions

By Sean Leonard
Staff Writer

Although the Spring 2021 semester will feel similar to the fall in the Zoom setting, students will have the opportunity to experience some on-campus normalcy in the upcoming months. 

Approximately 1,200 students will be living in single-occupancy rooms on campus, which is 31 percent of the campus’s capacity, according President Foster in a Jan. 26 email.

Students returning to campus are thrilled to have an in-person experience, but the risk of Covid-19 is still high and introduces uncertainties with how classes, testing, dining and quarantine will operate. The College has sent several emails about its plans for the semester, but many students are still unsure how the next few months will play out on campus.

Sophomore accounting majors Gloria Kim and Olivia Chiaramonte, along with sophomore management major Matthew Giannella will be living together in a Hausdoerffer Hall apartment. Giannella said he will not be taking any classes in person this semester, but needed a change of pace from being home for so long.

1200 Students Return to Campus for Spring Semester (Darby VanDeVeen / Photo Editor).

“I’ll hopefully be able to focus better back in the TCNJ environment, and obviously I just miss all my school friends,” Giannella said. “I haven’t seen them in awhile. It’s hard to stay connected when we’re all home, even if we’re all still in New Jersey.”

Chiaramonte and Kim also said they didn’t like learning from home. Kim said she will be taking an operations management course in person, and Chiaramonte has three classes she will be going to campus for.

“The atmosphere at TCNJ promotes me to study harder and work harder because at home it was really hard…I’m a little shy online,” Chiaramonte said. “I don’t really like Zoom calls and stuff like this, but it’s okay.”

Although they have a kitchen, Kim said they were still required to purchase a meal plan.  Giannella said he has purchased the cheapest plan hoping that they will be able to cook.

Since a meal plan is required, they will most likely eat on campus at some point throughout the semester. According to the Spring Flex website, the Atrium at Eickhoff Hall, C-Store, Brower Student Center and Library Cafe will be open. However, Eickhoff Hall is the only location offering limited seating since students are “encouraged to return to their residence hall to eat,” according to the site.

Kim said she did not fully understand what Eick will be like.

“They’re doing some token system, and you drop it off at the station. It was on Instagram, but I was kind of confused,” Kim said.

A common concern from all students including Chiaramonte, Kim and Giannella is Covid-19 transmission. All residential students are required to take a weekly Covid-19 antigen test administered by Bergen New Bridge Medical Center. Kim said the communication about safety precautions has been clear, and rules include wearing your mask everywhere besides your room, no guests, and assigned stalls and sinks in some residences.

“I’m scared to get Covid or even just being in contact with someone who has Covid, because then you’re quarantined for two weeks. So, I don’t think there’ll be a lot of resources available to us in those quarantine dorms. I’m really hoping we’re able to stay safe,” Giannella said.

Giannella said the communication from the College’s administration has been mostly clear so far.

“They’re straightforward about wanting to keep everything Covid safe and make sure everything is as organized as possible,” Giannella said. “I don’t know in practice if it will happen the way it says it will or run as smoothly, but I hope it does.”

Junior statistics major Cally Kerrigan has lived in an off-campus house since the fall. Like Giannella, she chose to live near campus because she does not learn as well at home.

“I probably will go to the library to do work, mostly for a change of scenery, because sitting in one room doing work is really counterproductive eventually,” Kerrigan said.

Kerrigan does not have a meal plan, but she visited campus and Campus Town several times throughout the fall for their food options.

“There were a couple of times where I would go to the Stud and just buy food with cash instead of using points or anything, mostly because I didn’t want to go and cook,” Kerrigan said. “I definitely did use meal options on campus in the fall, and I’ll probably continue to do so.” 

Kerrigan also said she was not sure if the status of her courses were permanent, considering that Covid-19 cases and restrictions might worsen or ease up.

“If Covid gets worse, do they have the option to go back online, or if things get better and you want to go to class in person with a mask?” Kerrigan asked.

Kerrigan said she does not have any ‘flex’ courses, but she was confused if she still needs to get tested weekly if she only occasionally wants to visit the campus for the library or outdoor studying.

“For people like me who are just off campus and might want to go to campus, it’s really confusing what I need to do versus what they just want me to do,” Kerrigan said. “I’m not entirely sure what I’m supposed to be doing.” 

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