As Stockton begins the Fall 2020 Semester, students finally return from their summer quarantine enforced by COVID-19 regulations. Based on Executive Order 155 placed by Gov. Phil Murphy and the NJ Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, the university has made several changes to on-campus housing requirements and restrictions.
All housing students must now wear masks at all times except when in their rooms. In conjunction, new residential policies forbid all residents from bringing any guests into their residence halls. Guests include all family, friends, or residential students not assigned to that dorm.
Residential Life has also decreased the number of students in Housing 1 by placing only two students per room, shifting from the previous five-person apartments, and eliminating the two-person reduced-rate doubles in Housing 3. Residential Assistant, Kaiah Capers, reports that Residential Life will take the new no-guest policy very seriously. “People will get kicked out of housing—there are no warnings.” “The roster for residents on campus changes every day. If people aren’t dropping out themselves, they’re getting kicked off campus,” Capers said.
According to the September 7 email sent by Dr. Christopher Catching, the Vice President for Student Affairs, the university has already removed ten students from housing for participating in on-campus and off-campus gatherings. In addition to on-campus housing adjustments, the university has also implemented quarantine housing in Chris Gaupp. Chris Gaupp has 30 rooms and now has a maximum capacity of approximately 30 quarantined students. The first floor is reportedly for students returning from out of state. In contrast, the second and third floors are designated for students displaying symptoms or awaiting test results, according to Residential Assistant, Kiara Padilla.
Padilla, who recently returned from her family’s home in Puerto Rico, spent two weeks in Chris Gaupp before moving into her Stockton dorm. “The quarantine dorms are little isolated… there’s definitely not as much staff or presence as on the Galloway campus,” she said. However, students are still permitted to socialize in small groups outside of their dorms, as long as they follow state social distancing protocols. The university recently announced its “Take It Outside” programming, which will offer activities like Cornhole, Washers, and Kan Jam, with Spikeball added in the upcoming months. According to Kevin McHugh, Executive Director of Athletics & Recreation, the athletic department also plans to host student tournaments.
These tournaments will also include Horseshoes, Wiffleball, Speed-Minton, Three-point Shooting, Home Run Derby, Penalty Kick Shootouts, and more. Padilla, a Resident Assistant in Housing 2, finds that first-year residents have been very compliant with social distancing and mask requirements. She reports that first-year students have begun chatting through their dorm doors in the hallways to avoid violating the no-guests policy. Capers adds that while there are strict requirements on social gatherings, RA’s will continue implementing more student programming to bring residents together.
“Even though it’s virtual and not a lot of people are on campus, [Residential Life] is taking a really big initiative to make sure that the distance and lack of people don’t dim the atmosphere they’re trying to provide for students that are here,” Capers says. “They’re trying even harder to make people feel comfortable…this is weird and difficult for a lot of students.” Despite decreases in housing availability, the university has not suffered from housing overflow like in previous years. “There’s actually quite a few empty beds on campus. Initially, we were supposed to utilize the Showboat Hotel, but that’s no longer necessary,” Padilla said.
She also pointed out how many students canceled their housing contracts due to the shift in online classes. One of those students is senior, Brea Vance. “With a majority of classes being online, it didn’t make fiscal sense to live on campus. You live on campus so you can participate in campus activities, lectures, and professors’ office hours, but with classes being online, it’s just not viable,” Vance said.
It is still unclear if Stockton will continue their current policies and practices in Spring 2021. According to Dr. Catching, students who fail to obey the Stockton University COVID-19 Plan and other directives will be subject to sanctions, including immediate housing expulsion without refund, suspension, and/or complete removal from the institution. His email on September 2 noted that suspension or expulsion remains permanently on students’ transcripts.
Dr. Catching advises students with questions regarding permissible activities to contact the Office of Residential Life and the Office of Care and Community Standards.