Masks, Circus Tents, and a New Campus Normal
Because of Covid, the college’s people and environs look vastly different this fall. Masks, signage, physical distancing, circus tents for classes—all of it is strange. But these visible changes, and many invisible ones, are all part of ensuring a safe, smart, and healthy fall semester.
What may be most heartening is the way students are at the center of creating and championing new social norms to keep everyone safe. Over the summer, students rewrote their statement of culture and developed behavioral expectations for living on campus. These efforts were paying off in low numbers of Covid cases as the first module wound to a close in October.
Here are some additional highlights of what’s happening this fall.
In October, Beloit ramped up its PCR testing for students with the goal of being able to test every student every other week through the end of the fall semester. Going into 2021, the college is working on a partnership with Chicago-based Abbott Laboratories to secure testing equipment for a molecular test (not antigen) that will provide results in 15 minutes.
Not one, but three red-and-white-striped tents lend a celebratory feel to campus. Rather than hosting a party, these billowy structures provide shelter and ample space for in-person, outdoor classes. Heating elements are being added as temperatures drop.
Students fully adopted and continue to promote the mantra: “Self-care is community care” as the key to keeping the community together safely this fall. They use an app for daily self-checks, get tested regularly, wear masks, and gather socially, but only in small groups.
Usually a sweaty, crowded, joyfully chaotic affair, Move-In Day for new students had to be more methodical and low-key this year. To keep people at a safe distance, the college staggered move-in over eight days.
Everyone on campus is required to wear a face covering both indoors and outdoors, unless they are in private rooms alone. To reinforce that point, Beloit launched a social media campaign in early September, showing masks doffed on the M-I bell, campus sculptures, even portraits of former college presidents.
The opening of Beloit’s Powerhouse in February could not have come at a better time. Dean of Students Cecil Youngblood recently called the facility “a life saver” because its roominess helps the college reduce density. Besides hosting classes and offering plenty of space to work out and eat meals, the Powerhouse also features the newly opened, translucent Field House at the building’s north end, now hosting activities such as distanced dance rehearsals.
Classes this fall follow a hybrid model, a mix of in-person and virtual teaching. At press time in October, two-thirds of students were physically on campus, and 40 percent of classes were being offered fully online.