Rebound Mid Michigan: What will dorm life look like amid COVID-19?

Posted at 3:36 PM, Jun 25, 2020

When students return to college campuses in the fall, life will be different.

While you can social distance in the classroom, that’s much harder in a dorm room with a roommate.

How do you serve tens of thousands of meals everyday and keep students apart? Michigan colleges are planning to do just that to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Andrew Blankenship says he feels pretty confident going back to Michigan State for his sophomore year in the fall. But he knows he’s not returning to the same college experience he had last year.

"I think just all of the next school year will be different for sure," said Andrew Blankenship. "You can't do anything but be prepared."

MSU is adapting. Among the changes, students will be asked to wear masks in public spaces. But, biggest challenges may be in the dorms.

“We are so pleased that we can welcome another batch of students to the residence halls this year," said Amir Baghdadchi.

Baghdadchi is the Senior Associate Director of Michigan Housing at U-M. He says the challenge is giving the 12,000 students living on campus at the university and while maximizing safety.

The balance starts right at move-in.

"So we're letting students bring in one person at a time during move in to really limit the density, but still, make sure that the family can be there to bring them into campus."

After the term is underway, dorms will only be accessible to students who live in that building. No guests. Many indoor common areas like lounges and community kitchens will be closed. But school leaders know students are going to be hanging out.

"So what we can do is encourage smaller gatherings," said Baghdadchi. "The smaller the event, the safer the event is the idea."

And that idea carries to the dining halls, where seating capacity will be limited and socially distanced. The menu will remain diverse but self-service is out. Take out is in.

"We're going to be setting up outposts across the university, where students on the way to class in between can stop in at. They're going to be able to pick up a dining hall meal."

Baghdadchi says students should expect to hear public health messaging from faculty, staff, and each other. This fall, Andrew says he'll sit down with his roommate at MSU, so they're on the same page.

"We've been good friends for years and years, so I think it'll be pretty easy to say, like, you know, hey, like maybe wash your hands when you come into the room," said Andrew.

So here's the Rebound rundown:

  • Large gatherings on college campuses are out
  • Common spaces will be limited
  • Expect dorms to be limited to residents only
  • Look for more grab and go options and socially distant seating in dining halls

Baghdadchi says there will be single rooms set aside for students at a heightened risk due to COVID-19 exposure and accommodations for anyone who contracts the virus to allow them to rebound in a place safe for them and everyone else.