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Haverford Adjusts to a New Type of Student: The Commuter

With health and safety concerns, economic reasons, and travel regulations weighing heavily on students’ minds – alongside the vast number of restrictions to the traditional campus life and classroom learning experience – many have opted for a remote fall semester, be it from their hometown or from a place near campus.

The Bi-Co faculty has been making adjustments to accommodate students in classes irrespective of the modality of the course. “Haverford faculty members and students have the option of participating online or in person, with faculty committed to teaching every student who enrolls, regardless of modality,” wrote President Wendy Raymond in her July 23 email.

According to statistics provided by the Office of Residential Life, 78% of Haverford’s student population chose to live on-campus for the fall semester; 14% opted for remote learning; and 8% opted to live off-campus but remained enrolled for in-person classes. This last figure represents a significant increase compared to a typical year: prior to the pandemic, only 2% of Haverford students lived off-campus.

For the 8% of students living off-campus and taking in-person classes, this will entail travel to and from campus. They will still have to comply with all safety requirements, including post-arrival COVID-19 testing, ongoing COVID testing and screening, and obtaining a flu vaccine.

In an “Expectations” document distributed by Interim Dean of the College Joyce Bylander, several items said to “greatly increase [one’s] exposure and that of the community to COVID-19” were prohibited for those living off-campus:

Going to bars

Going to indoor restaurants or other dining facilities

Attending house parties or large gatherings (such gatherings are prohibited by PA guidelines)

Throwing house parties with large numbers of guests (violations of this sort may result in students being visited by local authorities)

Taking off my mask for any reason other than eating, teeth brushing/showering or sleeping

Going to gyms and fitness centers

Haverford’s Fall 2020 Travel Policy currently states that students who live on or close to campus should only undertake local trips for necessary groceries or supplies. “Such local trips do not require approval,” reads the policy, “but while off campus, students must abide by all applicable universal masking, social distancing and health/safety guidelines.”

Rebecca Chen ’22 is one of the students who resides off-campus yet close enough to commute regularly. Chen, who is currently enrolled for one remote and three hybrid classes, plans to visit campus to get take-out with friends, go for walks on the Nature Trail, and use the library as a resource. Her apartment is close to the Blue Bus station at Bryn Mawr, and she hopes to be able to use the Blue Bus to commute to Haverford.

“It’s great to ‘mandate’ [travel regulations] in writing but there’s not a lot of explanation on how you get travel approved, or when that would be necessary. Like, how far is considered ‘local’?” questioned Chen. “Of course, I’ll try to follow the rules and stay safe but I don’t think a school should depend solely on the good will of students for their wishes to be upheld, especially when the rules aren’t super clear.”

As for the enforcement of regulations for those residing off-campus but commuting to campus, Haverford’s Campus Safety has no jurisdiction off-campus.

“Haverford students living off-campus need to understand that they are living in residential communities and that they are subject to local emergency response, police response, and issues that could arise with neighbors,” explained Dean of Student Engagement & Divisional Initiatives Mike Elias. “If we learn about an off-campus party, in some cases, the deans may reach out and ask students to be conscientious and thoughtful of the community by following the protocols. But in no way is Haverford’s Campus Safety going to be responding like they do on campus due to the lack of jurisdiction off-campus.”

Under the visitor policy, included in Haverford’s expectations document, students may host one Bi-Co guest at a time in their dorm rooms. On the other hand, they are prohibited from hosting “any visitors to campus, including family members, romantic partners, or any students who are not currently part of the Bi-Co community and permitted to be on campus this fall.”

Dean Elias clarified how this would apply to off-campus students: “It is one Haverford student to one Bi-Co student only if the guest is a residential student at either Haverford or Bryn Mawr campus. Haverford students should not be inviting off-campus commuting students into residential halls.” However, these visitor policy restrictions for commuting students are limited to residence halls and do not restrict off-campus students from visiting campus for other meetings and engagements.

While the efficient implementation of these restrictions looks uncertain for even those students living on campus, the restrictions seem even less enforceable for those residing off-campus. Dean Elias acknowledged that commuting students will be largely expected to police themselves.

“This entire process is going to come down to students being conscientious and thoughtful about the larger community; we are really asking students to abide by the protocols not only for their own health, but also for the myriad other people on campus,” he said.

Haverford’s Engage website now has a link to a form that can be submitted anonymously with concerns and ideas pertaining to COVID-19 policies and practices. Responses to this form are actively monitored during business hours, and the administration encourages the use of this platform.

“This is a collective call for all of us to follow the necessary protocols to make sure that we keep ourselves safe. If students don’t think they can follow the safety protocols, then they should not be commuting back and forth,” said Dean Elias.

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