The Wayne State Dean of Students Office and the Office of Housing and Residential Life hosted a virtual town hall Monday on their fall campus reopening plans.
The event, moderated by Interim Associate Director of Student Auxiliary Services Operations Nick Board, featured a panel discussion on what some aspects of campus life may look like in the fall. This includes housing, a plan for future campus events and COVID-19 policies.
Though campus is expected to reopen in the 2021-2022 academic year, some public health guidelines are still being enforced, according to a May 24 email to the campus community from President M. Roy Wilson.
“We are urging all students and soon guests to complete our Campus Daily Screener,” said Ramona Benkert, interim dean of the College of Nursing. “The other thing we urge all students to do is to complete what we call our Warrior Safe Training Course.”
The Be Warrior Safe Course provides information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, according to its website.
Current guidelines require students to wear face masks and maintain social distancing when inside campus buildings regardless of vaccination status, Benkert said. WSU is not requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for students and faculty but it is encouraged and offered for free at the Campus Health Center.
WSU will launch its second vaccine incentive program next Monday, Dean of Students David Strauss said.
Prizes in the second launch include free parking, a WSU bookstore gift card, OneCard dollars and a semester of free housing or tuition, Benkert said. An email will be sent out with information about how to participate in the coming days.
Wilson announced WSU’s first vaccine incentive in an April 21 email to the campus community. Students were eligible to obtain a $10 OneCard credit to use with Grubhub or save for use on campus, in exchange for submitting proof by May 7 of receiving their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Once returning to campus in the fall, students can expect a much different environment than the previous academic year, Board said.
Strauss said WSU football will return in the fall, after the GLIAC canceled its 2020 season.
“Mark your calendar now, Tuesday night Sept. 2 is the first home game of the Warrior football season,” Strauss said.
Brandon Shamoun, coordinator of Student Engagement, said FestiFall will be held in person again this year. The 2020 FestiFall was held virtually due to the pandemic.
“We’ll have our hundreds of student organizations tabling and our departments, schools and colleges as well,” he said.
A postcard with more details about FestiFall will be sent to WSU students in July, Shamoun said.
WSU Orientation Part Two will take place on Aug. 30 and Aug. 31, Shamoun said. Success Sessions will be held to help students acclimate to the upcoming academic year and to the Academic Success Center.
Day one of Orientation Part Two will include a variety of campus activities, including WSU’s Speak About It session, which focuses on consent and other Title IX programming, Shamoun said.
“On day two, we'll transition into our new student convocation, which is the official welcome from the University President and the Board (of Governors) as well on that day,” Shamoun said.
Orientation is required for all incoming first-year students but is highly recommended for transfer students, according to the Orientation Part Two website.
The Student Center is currently accepting reservations for student organizations to host events in both indoor and outdoor spaces, said Student Center Associate Director Katie Beaulieu.
“We have several event spaces of different sizes in the Student Center and around campus,” Beaulieu said. “The lawn area in front of St. Andrew’s Hall is now available as a new reservable outdoor space.
Director of Residence Life Nikki Dunham suggested renting a space larger than required to enforce social distancing guidelines, she said.
Another aspect of campus that will change this fall is housing, Dunham said.
She said hand sanitizer and face masks will continue to be available inside all campus buildings and increased cleaning will continue to be enforced.
While those COVID-related policies are still in place, others are ending, including plexiglass barriers and “a lot of the physical distancing requirements, such as elevator limits and limitations in lounges,” Dunham said.
Registration for campus housing is open and students are encouraged to apply soon to accommodate their requests, Dunham said. For first-year students, she suggested exploring the First Year Resident Experience program.
FYRE is designed for all first-year students and includes increased support and specialized events to help the transition to independent college life, Dunham said. Students who choose to participate will be assigned to the newly renovated Chatsworth Suites.
WSU dining will also be making changes this fall. Last summer, seating and occupancy in dining halls were reduced by 50% and floor sticker marks were added to ensure social distancing.
Any student with a meal plan will have 25% of their Warrior Dollars turned into OneCard dollars for both the fall 2021 and winter 2022 semesters, said Kelly Thacker, director of Housing and Dining Operations.
“We really think that that’s going to provide you more flexibility and variety,” Thacker said. “We wanted you to utilize your meal plan to its full extent.
As campus life returns to pre-pandemic operations, virtual programming will remain available for students who may not feel comfortable attending in-person activities, Strauss said.
A recording of the town hall can be viewed on WSU’s YouTube channel.
Amelia Benavides-Colón is a contributing writer for The South End. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Screenshot taken by Benavides-Colón at the June 7 town hall.