The new normal: student housing returns to full capacity

Victoria Diaz, freshman, poses for a portrait in her dorm room at student housing on Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. (Jannah Geraldo/The Collegian)

Face coverings, sanitization and COVID-19 testing are the norm at student housing as student residents return to the dorms after interruptions due to the pandemic.

“I think the way it is now is pretty good because there’s a sense of trust that people will take these precautions as they say,” said freshman Victoria Diaz. “They’re saying to take precautions and they trust the students will take those precautions and take it to heart, as to consider others around them.”

This semester, many students are experiencing on-campus living for the first time either because the pandemic either interrupted their on-campus experience in 2020 or because it’s their first year at the university.

As of Aug. 17, the full capacity of 1,100 students returned to the dorms this semester at Fresno State, according to Fresno State public information officer Lisa Boyles Bell. It’s about a 434% increase of students from last year when only 206 students stayed at the dorms. 

Diaz moved into the dorms this semester in hopes of being closer to campus and saving time on her commute. She said that the highlight of moving in has been being able to participate in many extracurricular activities.

“I like that being here allows you to participate more in the activities that the school provides,” Diaz said. “So like, in those activities you get to go out, you have fun and then you come back so it’s not too far and it’s pretty safe around here.”

Prior to moving in on Aug. 19, students had to show proof of vaccination of at least the first dose or seek a medical or religious exemption. They also have to take COVID-19 tests regularly regardless of their vaccination status.

“Some new rules this year are that every student was required to have a negative COVID test within 72 hours of check-in regardless of vaccination status. If the student is not fully vaccinated they are required to get COVID tested weekly at the SSU [Satellite Student Union],” assistant director of housing Michele Dunlap said.

Hailey Howes, a junior biology major, moved back into student housing this semester, and in previous semesters, the residential community was like a family to her, where everyone was together when there were activities. 

Because she didn’t know many people starting off at Fresno State, the chance to make new friends in the dorms was a major part of why she decided to move into student housing, Howes said. As a returning resident, she enjoyed having the chance to interact and help new students navigate their way around campus.

“Now, it’s a little more isolated. That’s just purely because of social distancing and COVID. However, student housing is currently trying to make an effort to get students more involved with each other, with smaller activities with smaller groups,” Howes said.

Isolation protocols are in place if a resident is exposed to COVID-19. Students who have to isolate can take advantage of a dining service delivery program, and sick residents get isolation kits, containing disinfectant, paper towels and other resources.

Karen Carillo, a junior Chicano studies major, was one of the residents who needed to isolate herself after being near someone who tested positive for COVID-19 last semester and has since decided to move out. She is now living off-campus this semester because of her experience while isolating.

“I felt less alone when one of my roommates had actually quarantined earlier that school year, and she told me of her poor experience and that’s when I knew I’m not just acting like a brat. I’m not acting like I need high end royalty care here,” she said.

Despite having a bad experience in isolation, Carillo still encourages students to move in since it’s an experience she says that everyone should have when they come to campus.

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