“Please help us reduce case rates,” Erin Hoffmann Harding and Mike Seamon asked near the conclusion of their Feb. 17 announcement on heightened COVID-19 regulations on campus. The new restrictions were the result of a spike in cases in the days prior, which saw case numbers jump from 17 to 48, a 182% increase, within the 24-hour period of Sunday, Feb. 14.
Effective the day after the announcement, the new regulations mandated that all student activities, clubs and organizations meet and host events virtually, decreased seating capacity in various dining areas by 25% and prohibited undergraduate hall visitation from non-residents, save for attending mass.
A serious decision with significant implications for student life, the administration has since enacted the new protocols through the HERE campaign, which has been a particularly green and omnipresent part of campus since the fall. This semester, the campaign decided to create the HERE student advisory board, which brought together students from different walks of life to advise and consult the campaign on matters of campus and student life.
Intended to connect students and increase transparency between the administration and students, the student board meets weekly to counsel the administration on topical issues pertaining to student life and community affairs.
Knowing the tensions between students regarding COVID-19 regulations, the board deliberates on potential compromises and ideas to best serve different students in these times.
Senior Lynnette Wukie, a member of the student board and also a 2019-2020 leprechaun, noted the considerable challenge of this task: “There are students frustrated on both ends of the spectrum at the same time … there are students frustrated at other students who aren’t following the rules, and there are students who believe the rules are too strict.”
In order to serve this range of students, the board, as well as the faculty who comprise the HERE campaign, intentionally includes a diverse array of voices. Another member of the board, senior Lauren Simon, said this diversity is a key asset: “I believe the greatest strength of the HERE campaign is the diversity of voices on the team. The different ages, backgrounds and levels of concern all help to create more holistic communications with the student body.”
Simon’s point emphasizes the staggeringly large scope of the HERE campaign, which is not just limited to posters and stickers in campus buildings. Multi-institutional and programmatic, the HERE campaign has built programming with academic affairs, undergraduate student life, student dining, student housing, building facilities and services, research, faculty, graduate students and professional students. It also has working groups for emotional support and well-being, epidemiology, behavioral change and schools and childcare.
Though such far-reaching efforts may seem prototypical among the university’s large-scale programs, the HERE campaign stands out as distinct because it is a completely response-based pandemic infrastructure program..
Simon wished that students better appreciated the full scope of the HERE campaign, and noted how “oftentimes, students only remember the initiatives they did not like, rather than those they felt connected to, which can invalidate all of the great things the team does.”
Wukie lamented the fact that many students see the HERE campaign as an antagonistic force that pits students against the university.
“It’s not intended to be the HERE campaign versus the students. If anything, the HERE campaign is for the students,” Wukie said. “The biggest challenge is how to get students to rally behind this idea that we are here together, rather than at home learning,” she continued.
While students on the advisory board can understand firsthand the frustrations of the student body, they also hope to accentuate that the campaign is an effort to fight for the community in a way that engages with students about necessary sacrifices, rather than leaving them out of the process.
Wukie believes that the campaign must ultimately strive “to get students to see the value in community, and how the sacrifices we have to make this semester might make it more worth it."