As students finish returning to campus for the spring semester, the college is moving to Level 3 of the Bi-Co Mitigation Plan. Interim Dean of the College Joyce Bylander announced the decision at 5:30 pm on Friday, February 12, the first day of classes.
Under Level 3 restrictions, students are advised by the college to remain in their dorm rooms except for essential activities, such as getting food from the Dining Center, or outdoor pursuits that can be performed alone.
In-person meetings and gatherings are now forbidden, with the ban on congregating in dorm common rooms specifically bolded in Dean Bylander’s email. In a modification from the original Level 3 guidelines, outdoor dining, either in the plastic-sided tents or outside, will remain allowed. The library is closed during Level 3, with pick-up services available only.
Classes will remain fully virtual until at least February 26, as previously planned. Travel between Bryn Mawr and Haverford, including the Blue Bus, will also continue to be suspended until the same date. All other off-campus travel will require the explicit permission of the Dean of the College; running through local neighborhoods, a favorite pastime for many students during the pandemic, was singled out as forbidden.
With the exception of “essential student employees”, Fords living off-campus but commuting to Haverford—a group that comprised just over 100 students last semester—will not be allowed on campus until the college returns to Level 2 or below.
Haverford will remain under tightened rules through 5 pm next Wednesday, February 17. The decision to enter Level 3 is the second time the college has moved to a different stage of the COVID mitigation plan, after a two-week jump to Level 2 last September.
Dean Bylander cited “widespread student non-compliance with health and safety measures within the community” as the reason for the heightened restrictions, listing gatherings in common rooms, bringing guests from off-campus, and poor compliance with masking policies.
Accounts from students confirmed that there have been violations of the COVID safety policies. A Customs Person (CP) in Gummere Hall, who asked not to be named, provided The Clerk with a copy of an email they had sent college administrators on February 10 to report that a group of first-years had embraced a tacit agreement that masks didn’t need to be worn while indoors.
Haverford’s mask policy requires students to wear a mask while on campus, except when eating, using the restroom, or staying in their own room.
The Gummere CP explained that their own first-years found it distressing to walk through the hall in question, which has the only water fountain in that section of the dorm. “People congregating in the hallway usually put a hand over their face, move their shirt up above their nose, or scramble to put a mask on,” they wrote in the email.
Adding that they had previously reported safety violations from the same students last semester, the Gummere CP called the latest behavior “unacceptable” and urged administrators “to take action before someone actually gets hurt.” Other reports indicate that the violations of the COVID safety protocols are not limited to a single hall or a single class year.
Dean Bylander warned that continued unsafe behavior could lead to the college moving to Level 4, which would require students who are not COVID-positive to immediately leave campus. To avoid this drastic step, “The College is prepared to immediately send individuals home who refuse to comply with health and safety measures that have been clearly outlined,” she said.
Despite the severe tone of Dean Bylander’s email, the rule changes as a result of Level 3 are less substantial than they may appear at first glance. Since college safety policies already require six feet of distance between persons on campus, the only difference is the temporary termination of the “Bi-Co guest” exception in one’s own room.
Similarly, the Haverford COVID hub indicates that all returning students were under a 14-day campus quarantine from the date of their return, which would preclude off-campus trips even under Level 1. Yet students reported widespread confusion over the length—or even existence—of campus quarantine, an uncertainty that was exacerbated by the fact that it only received two brief, sentence-long mentions in otherwise lengthy emails from Haverford administrators in January.
To make matters worse, Health Services’ website contradicts other guidance from the college, stating that the only students who must enter campus quarantine are those awaiting the results of their COVID test upon arrival and those who meet Pennsylvania’s quarantine requirements for out-of-state travel.
The effects of moving to Level 3 remain to be seen, but if last September’s heightened alert is any guide, the administration’s goal may be more symbolic than anything else: to remind students of the rules that are in place by taking drastic measures.