Following the declaration of a state of emergency in Massachusetts, due to the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), all students were expected to leave campus by Sunday, March 22, at 5 p.m. While students recognized the importance of the alteration in the functioning of the college, many expressed their disappointment at having to return home.
“I know why the college had to close down residence halls, but I really wish that my freshman year hadn’t been cut short. I feel like there’s so much I’m going to miss out on and being a first gen student I don’t even know what I’m missing,” said Kayley Tullgen ‘23.
“It’s a shame. So many of the bonds we’d built have been flushed down the drain” said Adam Bass ’21, the general manager of the Wheaton Radio Station.
“Being at home could place a student in a place with far more distractions, and often makes it harder to say no to certain distractions because of family guilt,” said Aba Lypps ’21, brining up another facet of the issue.
During the sudden move-out, Hannah Zack ’18, an alumnus of Wheaton College, demonstrated Wheaton’s creation of a tight-knit community by creating a spreadsheet that offered students resources from other students, faculty, staff, alumni and professors, with support including transportation, storage, financial support, emotional support and even help with schoolwork or resume building.
Lauriina Heinonen ’22, an international student from Finland, expressed her gratitude for her teammates, friends and coaches.
“The moving process that is usually well planned out was squeezed into a day, which added its fair share of stress and nerves. I’m really grateful for all the people who helped me out since with the travel ban I had a matter of days to head back home,” said Heinonen.
While all social programming on campus has been suspended, several student organizations have quickly adapted to the changing situation, with the Philosophy club hosting an online discussion about the Tragedy of the Commons, and Cafe Theatre’s co-President, Winslow Robinson ’20, pulling together an impromptu Zoom meeting. Other clubs, including the Sexual Health Advocates Group (SHAG) and the Story Writer’s Club, have sent out emails to gauge the best route for continuing their meetings.
Residential Life has been working with RAs to figure out their path forward to continue to work with residents.
“Despite the fact that we aren’t residents anymore, ResLife is doing all it can to support students. We’re still doing floor programs and check-ins to make sure everyone has what they need,” said Kaitlyn Megathlin ’20, the RA for the first floor of Beard Residence Hall.
“It sucks but it’s the right thing to do. I’m a little sad because I love living on campus and being so close to everyone,” said Sarah Kennedy ’21, an RA.
According to President Hanno’s emails, about 80 students are remaining on campus. All of them are allowed to do so due to extenuating circumstances and travel restrictions. For these students, dining is offered on a limited basis with heightened hygiene protocols. All non-Wheaton guests are prohibited from visiting the residence halls, and Wheaton will be continuing their heightened cleaning protocols. Students on campus seeking services from Health Services, Public Safety and Residence Life staff are requested to call first.
“Staying on campus is very weird. It’s like a ghost town,” said Calynn Fields ’23
Both Walter Caffey, Vice President for Enrollment, Dean of Admission and Student Aid and Meghan E Kass, Vice President for Finance and Administration, sent an email to students on March 24 detailing the financial policy the college decided on. Students no longer residing on campus will receive a credit equal to 50% of the spring housing and meal plan charges, irrespective of student financial aid received. The amount of $3,524 will be credited to student accounts.
Aramark will rollover any non-meal plan Lyons Bucks to next term for all continuing students. Graduating students will receive credit on their student account equal to any non-meal plan Lyons Bucks that were not utilized. Graduating students with credit balances will also receive refunds, that the college will begin to process in April.