MILWAUKEE — Freshmen starting at Marquette University will begin moving in to their dormitories this weekend.
TMJ4 News got an inside look at some of the changes made to improve safety on campus amid the pandemic. But we also talked to some students and staff, who say they are still concerned.
The university has posted reminders all over campus to wear masks, wash hands and keep a safe distance.
Foot-traffic flow, including entrances and exits, have been reconfigured. Ballrooms and recreation areas have been turned into more classroom space.
Class sizes are reduced, more offerings are online and students who are in class will sit at least six feet from each other.
In cafeterias, crowd flow and food gathering will be different, university officials say. There will be no buffet style meals. Many options will already be packaged. Every table only has one seat.
In student dorms, new furniture requirements, a no visitor rule, and physical distancing measures are in place. The number of students living on campus is also reduced.
On-campus student occupancy is typically at least 95 percent. This fall, it’s around 65 percent, according to Mary Janz, Executive Director of Housing and Residence Life.
“We’ve done our part to mitigate the risk prior to students arriving and moving in, and now they have responsibility to mitigate the risk too,” said Janz.
There will be no set punishment or enforcement of masks and distancing. All students will be asked to sign a pledge.
“Its like they’re really just hoping that all 8,000 18 to 22 year olds will follow the rules all the time,” said Tyler Reaker, a teaching assistant and graduate student.
Reaker is among a group of faculty and staff who sent a letter to University leaders detailing concerns. They believe the school is putting profit over safety.
“One of the big concerns, is seeing the Covid-19 outbreaks that happened at Notre Dame and UNC in a matter of a week or so,” Reaker said. “It seems to be the general consensus among many staff and faculty members here that we’ll be lucky to make it two weeks into the school year before something happens.”
Marquette is working with the Milwaukee Health Department, which did approve the University’s reopening plan.
“We see Marquette as an essential function of this community,” said Dr. Xavier Cole, Vice President of Student Affairs. “A function and commitment to provide the quality education we promise.”
There is one on-campus Covid-19 testing site, but it wasn’t part of the media tour. The university does not have the capacity to test every student.
“Symptomatic students will be tested on campus,” said Cole. “Our faculty and staff can get free testing through our medical benefits.”
Victor Chahin, who is set to begin his junior year, just got back to campus.
“I just moved in to my campus apartment and it’s weirdly quiet,” he said. “There’s not many people around.”
Chahin says some of his friends are taking this semester off to see what happens before returning.
“Students back on campus, still in reasonably close proximity, who knows what will happen?” he said. “I feel like the University is doing all they can for the most part. They’re letting students know the risks and making adjustments. The students are going to make their own decisions.”
Every day, all students, staff and faculty members will have to fill out an online Covid questionnaire to be allowed in class or in campus buildings.