As Nova Scotia continues to see low numbers of COVID-19 cases, residence guidelines at King’s are getting more lenient.
In an Oct. 1 email sent to students living on campus, Assistant Dean of Residence Tim Lade detailed a new set of residence rules that came into effect the same day.
These new guidelines allow students to:
- Use common rooms other than the one on their floor
- Visit residence buildings on campus that they do not reside in
- Invite one other student into their rooms, as long as social distancing is maintained
- Gather in larger groups in common rooms
Students must continue to social distance and wear masks on campus, and there are still limits on the number of people allowed in common rooms. The Manning room and the new Bays common room have limits of 12, and the 2nd and 3rd floor Alex Hall common rooms have limits of four.
According to Lade, these phase two rules have come into effect a little later than expected – the move was originally planned for mid-September.
“We wanted to give people a chance to settle into phase one,” Lade says. “We decided to take it a little more slowly just to make sure everyone was on the same page and aware of what the guidelines were.”
King’s residence opened at half its capacity this year. Students from outside the Atlantic bubble arrived first, moving in on August 21 and 22 to complete their 14-day self-isolation. The rest moved in between September 5 and 7.
In September, residents followed phase one rules, which prevented them from entering the rooms of other students and visiting other residence buildings. Students in Alexandra Hall were also barred from entering common rooms found on other floors. These rooms all had limits on the amount of students allowed inside, which have gone up under phase two rules.
“A lot of the guidelines are pretty hard to follow, but I think students did really well in phase one, and I’m pretty proud of how everyone handled it,” says junior don Corey Auwaerter.
Assistant Dean Lade agrees. “I’ve seen a very positive response to wearing masks indoors and outdoors when possible and physically distancing.”
Some students living in residence have mixed feelings about the rules – they say it’s been harder to connect with other students.”
“It’s definitely unfortunate that there are such strict guidelines in place,” said FYP student Zoe Woods, “It’s just not the same, but we’re getting around it.”
FYP student Leif Dunbar also described some of the restrictions as “frustrating” while still understanding their necessity. “I’ve always been okay with sacrificing some things,” he said.
As for the students who violate rules, King’s is opting for a more lenient approach to discipline.
COVID-19 related misconduct is addressed through reminders from dons and administrators that Lade says are “informal and educational.” Lade says he has not had any conduct meetings related to COVID-19 restrictions since the beginning of this academic year.
“It would be very easy to say: these are the rules and if you violate them, you’re going to be removed from residence,” he said. “But we’ve really taken an empathetic approach to the situation, and I think that has been helpful in seeing compliance.”
Residence guidelines are informed by King’s COVID-19 Response Plan, which was created based on expectations from the Nova Scotia provincial government, Lade says.
Lade noted that despite King’s small size, its response plan is comprehensive. “At a meeting recently, the government joked that for the smallest institution, King’s had the most complex plan,” he says.
Don Benjamin von Bredow says that this abundance of caution can be limiting. “We didn’t want to open up before we had overcome the obstacle of a potential bump [in cases] from students coming from other provinces,” he says. “Once we got past that, it’s hard to see a reason why the restrictions in place in the university continue to be so far in advance of the civil restrictions.”
Nova Scotia provincial guidelines state that up to 200 people can gather indoors for social events so long as people wear masks and social distance, and that 250 people can gather outdoors with the same rules. In von Bredow’s experience, “The college is generally unwilling to approve most events that have over 10 people, and even then, they require distancing and masking.”
In any case, King’s residence will continue to respond to COVID-19 under its phase two rules until further notice, which Lade says may not come for a while.
“We have to be very careful and very intentional about what phase three may look like,” he said. “We haven’t considered what that may look like as of right now, but I think government is going to have a lot of say on what those next steps may be.”
Phase three may be a long way off, but that hasn’t stopped students and dons from imagining what an ideal residence would be like.
Zoe Woods wants more people to be allowed in students’ rooms and common rooms, and Leif Dunbar would like King’s to allow some off-campus guests to visit.
Junior don Auwaerter is hoping for looser restrictions on gatherings, which he says would open up more opportunity for events. “It’s all about our community and making this feel like home,” he says.
Even amidst a global pandemic, staff and students at King’s are committed to creating a communal atmosphere in residence.
“You actually practice living in a community — it’s a little bit ludicrous to think that you can fully take the texts seriously without living in a community while you do so, because your context is just so far removed from what FYP studies,” von Bredow says.
Zoe Woods agrees. “It’s really hard work, you’re stressed, and you have to stay up all night working, but it’s okay because your best friend lives across the hall from you and you can go into their room and get some pizza after. I don’t even know how I would do it if I wasn’t here,” she said.
“How can you go and start becoming an adult if your mom is still doing your laundry?”