Students living in dorms at the University of Kansas this year are required to follow certain COVID-19 protocols put in place by student housing, a decision that some freshmen agree is needed to keep them safe.
Last year, the dorms had the lowest positivity rates on campus, the Student Housing director, Sarah Waters, said. Keeping people safe is the No. 1 priority for student housing during these times, she said.
“This year, we are working hard just to help students understand what they have to do to protect themselves and each other because we want everyone to be here,” Waters said.
Students in the dorms must wear masks at all times except when they are in their own rooms, according to Waters. Besides that rule, quarantine and isolation processes are still in place for those who test positive, but no other restrictions.
Freshman Fatima Shahid, a nursing major from Chicago living in a four-person Ellsworth suite, said she agrees with the policies that KU has in place for student housing.
“There’s a lot of kids going out,” Shahid said. “COVID is still a thing, and people are already getting sick. It’s like we’re safe, but we’re also not because we’re all meeting each other and exposed to a lot of people.”
Waters said the number of students in the dorms this year is estimated around 4,700, but housing won’t get the official numbers until the 20th day report. For comparison, last year the official 20th day numbers reported 4,000 and the year before COVID it reported 4,900, Waters said.
Of those estimated 4,700 students in the dorms this school year, Waters said 80% are vaccinated. The dorms did entry testing when students arrived, and if they were vaccinated, they were exempt from testing.
“That was a key piece to bringing people on campus in the fall,” Waters said. “KU, in general, didn’t do any entry testing but housing did, so it’s really about mask compliance and mask wearing this year.”
Freshman Hayden Spratlin, a strategic communications major from Overland Park, is one of those vaccinated freshmen. He said he feels safe in the dorms with the policies in place.
“Being vaccinated, I may have a bit of a skewed view of how things are in terms of feeling safe, but I still think student housing is taking the necessary measures,” Spratlin said.
Even with an increase of people inside the dorms, there have been some changes in restrictions from last year.
“[Last year], we had a much more limited operation inside of the buildings,” Waters said. “There wasn’t as much known about COVID and also no vaccine yet. We had a lot of our internal study spaces closed and no guests. We didn’t allow any guests at all up until mid-October, then we started allowing other residence hall guests.”
Sophomore Joseph Kelly, a business major from Wichita who stayed in Stouffer last year, said that while the rules were annoying at times, he understood why they were in place.
“Having no guests in the buildings to start the year wasn’t ideal,” Kelly said. “But the rules are the rules and they were in place to keep us safe.”