By Lara Becker
Senior Grace Postiglione did not expect to greet College President Kathryn Foster at her front door on Thursday, March 4, but accepted it as part of an unexpected semester.
In a Jan. 26 email, Foster said she would be engaging in a door-to-door campaign alongside Ewing Mayor Bert Steinmann to bridge Ewing and College communities, ensuring that students would be aware of maintaining the safety of those around them.
Foster announced that the two would be visiting off-campus student houses, particularly those with larger groups such as athletics, sororities or fraternities, in hopes of convincing students to follow CDC Covid-19 guidelines, social distancing and mask wearing.
The biology and secondary education double major and her housemates were contacted by the Office of Student Involvement through their sorority in the weeks beforehand. The Student Involvement staff asked them for permission to share their address with Foster and set up a date for the event.
“She seemed very interested in getting to know a little bit about us! She definitely wanted to stress the importance of staying safe, however the visit was very positive overall,” Postiglione said.
Postiglione said Foster asked about their landlord, the neighborhood and how their off-campus experience has been overall. The students were also provided with goodie bags filled with masks, hand sanitizer and other personal protective equipment.
The senior hadn’t heard of the planned visits by Foster until she was contacted to set up the appointment, but was pleasantly surprised by the experience. Foster had previously been visiting athletic homes before stopping by, according to Postiglione.
“From what I could tell, the goal of the visit was for Dr. Foster to make connections with the off-campus community,” she said. “She thanked us for being so safe given the circumstances, and asked us about the organizations that we are involved in.”
Upon meeting Steinmann for the first time, Postiglione said he discussed the true impact that students from the College can have on Covid-19 issues when it comes to Ewing communities. His presence served as a reminder to the students of their responsibility to respect the surrounding neighborhoods as they live in Ewing for only a short period of time.
In expanding upon the idea behind the off-campus visits, Foster described her reasoning for reaching out to students in an interview with The Signal.
“The idea is to show our support for students,” Foster said. “We know that students who live off campus, who are choosing to come to campus, are essentially what we would call the campus community this semester …. safety measures, compliance, testing, those are all things that are essential to keeping the campus safe.”
Beyond enforcing compliance, checking in on homes and encouraging CDC guidelines, Foster also aims to remind students of their duty to surrounding communities.
“You are in a neighborhood that has its own sense of anxiety or worry about housing where the neighbors may not be compliant,” she said. “To our TCNJ community members: we are asking you, and we are appealing to you to be mature this semester, to follow the rules, and to comply and to recall and be mindful all the time that you live in an environment that has a lot of different people with different circumstances.”
The check-ins serve as a reminder to students of Roscoe’s Pledge, and everything that it stands for, Foster said. After recent surges on and off campus, the visits intend to center students and give them the opportunity to meet face to face with College leadership.
“Overall it was a really positive experience. Obviously cases at TCNJ have been higher than they should be, so President Foster should be concerned regarding our safety,” Postiglione said. “I never got the impression that she was accusing us or questioning our behavior. She was very concerned with our college experience and how our organizations were doing given everything that’s going on.”