Students who walked into the John Garrick Hardy Center were taken by surprise as most of the furniture in the food court that students used to eat and socialize was removed. The other surprise was the game room was closed until further notice. These are the university’s new protocols, due to the rise of COVID-19 cases, to limit as much socialization as possible.
According to Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Derrick Brewster, Ed.D., the Student Government Association had some concerns going into this semester considering the incline of COVID-19 cases in the state of Alabama.
“One of the things that they suggested to the administration was to remove the furniture from the food court area to take away from the big pockets of students being together without any barriers, and trying to reduce the opportunity to spread the virus,” Brewster said. “Hopefully, this is more of a temporary state, indicating that maybe in about three to four weeks, the positive cases could go down, and we will slowly bring the furniture back in.”
Kyra Rogers, a freshman graphic design major, said it is understandable to remove furniture for COVID-19 reasons, but it is also decreasing the college experience.
“As a freshman, because of COVID, you can’t have visitors in the residence halls, so that crosses out a spot to hang. Yes, you have the cafe, but that is only at certain times of the day, so that is crossed out,” Rogers said. “So, if there’s no furniture in the union, how are you to socialize? We have normalized having social events with masks on and being in groups with masks on to follow the rules and keep everyone safe, so why take the furniture away when, as a school, we have been doing great?”
Rogers expresses another idea that may be in the students’ favor.
“I believe they shouldn’t have taken the furniture away, but to make this into another opportunity, I say, for every three hours, students should spray down or wipe down the furniture, and that should count as volunteering. That would reduce the risk of infection, get more students involved, and boost up volunteer hours with the campus students.”
Kayla Moore, a sophomore communications major, feels that removing the furniture from the union is inconsiderate, especially since the cafe is not open throughout the whole day.
“For some students, that is their escape to get out of their room and interact with friends, and it’s been snatched away,” Moore said. “It would be different if the cafeteria was open throughout the whole day, and if it’s an issue with COVID-19, they can always put a smaller amount of chairs in the union instead of removing all of the chairs. There is nothing else fun to do on campus, considering we haven’t even had any events yet, so for some, that is the only way to interact with friends, especially since the dorms don’t have visitation. It doesn’t make sense at all.”
Clarence Ross, Jr., a sophomore social work major, believes the game room in the student union should open.
“I feel that closing the game room is a little extreme,” Ross said. “We deserve a place to vibe and have positive bonding time with others.”
Dreayna Morgan, a sophomore political science major, expressed her opinion about the new protocols.
“I do think the university needs to make some sort of arrangements to gradually bring back social life to campus in general, including the game room. I understand that they are trying to take precautions in slowing/stopping the spread of COVID-19 on campus, but social activity is a necessity in maintaining a healthy balance between classes and work. I am not familiar with campus life prior to COVID-19. However, I know it wasn’t like this. The reality is we were and are still in a pandemic that isn’t going anywhere, but they can’t continue to put our college experience on hold because of it.”
Kiasa Trabue, a junior communications major, offered a different opinion.
“I am not mad or happy about the game room being closed, but I believe it should be open because it is somewhere on campus to have fun and hang out with friends,” Trabue said. “The university already reduced a lot of in-person activities, so we barely get a full college experience. We can hang out outside, but it really depends on the weather. If it is raining, or if it is too cold or too hot, nobody is going to want to socialize out there. Students wouldn’t have to worry about the weather if there was a place to sit and socialize in the union.”