Michaela Lumpert, Campus Carrier news editor
As the spring semester started and students moved back onto campus the weekend of Jan. 16, Berry enacted a travel restriction that was scheduled to last throughout at least the first two weeks of the semester. Different from last semester, this travel restriction essentially quarantines students on campus, not allowing them to go into the broader Rome community. Only students with approved special circumstances, including student teachers, students with jobs off-campus, or those with in-person internships, were allowed to leave during their approved windows of travel.
Students were notified of the new restriction during a set of virtual town hall meetings held for students and parents on Jan. 6 and 7. This travel restriction started Jan. 16 and ended 8 p.m. on Jan. 27. During the aforementioned town hall meetings, students were told to plan ahead and return back to campus with enough groceries to last two weeks, as well as enough gas in their cars to last two weeks.
Yesterday, in an email sent to students from the President’s Office, administration stated this travel restriction has been lifted. As of 8 p.m., students were allowed to leave campus. However, that they will continue to restrict travel to locations outside of Floyd County until at least Feb. 10. Students can request approval for outside Floyd County travel through the travel form under the COVID-19 section on Vikingweb.
The email also stated that students will now be able visit other residence halls. The visitation policy follows similar to the one last semester, the one to one ratio policy, which means that only one student can have one other guest in their room. Students are still encouraged to wear masks in confined areas.
Associate dean of students Lindsay Norman stated that the restriction has been set in order to protect students and slow the spread of COVID-19. She explained that the policy originated from a variety of departments on campus, that all worked together to implement it.
Among these departments, each has a specific role in implementing and maintaining the restriction. She explained that the Welcome Center collects ID numbers from all students entering through the gate. The ID number is then sent to the Residence Life office, who is in charge of monitoring all the numbers and following up with a student if they violated the policy.
Norman stated that the decision on when the restriction will end is all based on the data associated with COVID-19, like how many students have tested positive and how the Floyd county positive cases number is increasing or decreasing.
Implications of violating the travel restriction depend on case-by-case scenarios, as Norman explained. Students will be notified that they have violated the travel restriction and will either be followed up with Residence Life or Conduct Board, depending on the seriousness of the violation.
“If there was a student, after an initial warning, who was still leaving campus without approval and who did not have a compelling reason, then they could be suspended,” Norman said. We would have had some clear communication prior to them getting in trouble to say ‘here is our policy’.”
Along with the travel restriction, other COVID-19 policies from last semester will continue to remain in place still in place. Students must still wear a mask in all public areas and when they are in close contact with another person. Campus is still closed however to outsiders, therefore visitation from people outside of the Berry community is not allowed; students are asked to stay in their own rooms and visit with friends in outdoor or large, open spaces.
Administration has not confirmed whether or not the policy of personal bubbles implemented last semester will continue. Norman explained that there is not enough data on if the personal bubbles were successful or not. The only data they have from the personal bubbles was how many students registered and did not register, which is not informative of effectiveness.
Although there are many restrictions, Norman stated that they are all put in place to benefit students and protect them. Because of this, restrictions and policies will be changed week-by-week as administration continues to monitor the situation and slow the spread of COVID-19.
“I think we need to be flexible in every way, making decisions that reflect the safety of our students and protect everyone so that we can stay in person. That’s our two goals: prevent the spread of COVID and stay in person.”
Since the semester started, Norman continued to encourage students to follow the policies. But she is comforted in the fact that most students are adhering to the policies and working to create a safe environment on campus.
“I would say very many students are following the rules,” Norman said. “I’m comforted by the number of students following the rules.”