By Lilly Hoeniger– 1851 Contributor
This Resident Assistant speaks on Lasell student’s mental health in the midst of living on campus during the COVID pandemic.
Q: What are a few of the social restrictions that have been set in place for residents since being back on campus this school year?
A: Before each semester, all of the residents had to sign a pledge that stated how they couldn’t go into other residents’ buildings that wasn’t their own. They were extremely restricted in the sense that they couldn’t socialize with anyone unless it was being done outside…There were tents outside for socializing during the warmer months but those tents are rarely used now because of the winter weather.
Q: What are your personal opinions on these restrictions?
A: I have many opinions on these restrictions. I do compliment our school for how well they’re handling this strange time of COVID but I think there should be a looser policy when it comes to socializing for residents. I would like to see one person be allowed into each residents’ room. Obviously it’s different for everybody because of some groups living in suites but it’s something to consider.
Q: How does the rest of your staff feel about the Covid restrictions?
A: The rest of my staff is on the same page. They’re having the same complaints from their residents regarding the restrictions and it’s deflating to tell them that we can’t do anything about it. We’re all really feeling for our residents.
Q: Have you, as a staff, spoken up about these opinions to a higher voice in the Lasell community or do you plan to?
A: Yes, we had a zoom call with Dean Hennessy in January where he asked for ideas for change based on the opinions we’ve heard from our residents and staff. Many Resident Assistants spoke up on that call and he told us to make a proposal that he could share with others who could help change the situation. That proposal was due Friday Feb 5.
Q: What are your expectations of the possible response?
A: It’s hard to say because I know the university is in a tough position right now, as is every other school community but personally I’m confident that we will see a change … Dean Hennessey was very open about how he wanted us to look at other schools and what they were doing. Our proposal included a whole list of schools that are already making changes in their COVID policies.
Q: Compared to your first semester as a Resident Assistant in Fall of 2019, how has your relationship with your residents changed? Was it a normal school year?
A: Well back in 2019, things were going well. It was an extremely normal school year. The only things that I had to notably deal with were reminders of the alcohol policies in the dorms and parties but as of now, the entire campus environment has changed dramatically. Many students don’t have Friday classes and with minimal weekend activities on campus, they go home on Thursday and return Monday or Tuesday, depending on their schedules … Back in 2019, it felt like a nice community so I’d say we lost that feel because of how isolated students have to be in order to not break the new policies.
Q: Have these restrictions limited your ability to help them as first year students?
A: I wouldn’t say so. I’ve been a Resident Assistant for first years for two years now and the one thing that I really think is important is to make sure they’re aware of all of their resources that Lasell offers. I’m still here to answer any of their questions about going through their first year so I’m still available as a guide for them.
Q: What have you seen among your own residents when it comes to mental health?
A: There’s been a huge amount of awareness going around especially because I know a lot of my residents are in singles. Their roommates made the decision to stay home this semester so it’s an isolating time for them. When they go to the dining hall, they can’t take their food and sit down. They have to go back to their room. With it being such an isolating time, mental health has definitely been on the forefront for RA’s. We’re still trying to make as much of a community as we can. I know a number of residents who didn’t like their first semester on campus so they’d rather stay home. That’s unfortunate as a freshman because you’re trying to make friends in a new community and it’s hard to when you’re being forced to stay in your room.
Q: Are you happy with your decision to continue as a Resident Assistant during the pandemic?
A: I’m happy with my decision. I did a lot of thinking on whether or not I wanted to come back. I knew if I did, I wanted to be a Resident Assistant again for first years. I wanted to make their first year of college as normal as I possibly could.
Q: Finally, how has your mental health been since being on campus with all of the social restrictions? Have you seen a change personally?
A: I would say there has been a huge change for my mental health. Compared to last year, where I had my friends on campus, my mental health was never a concern. It was never something that I really thought about until now where all of my friends chose to stay home. I’m in the same boat as most of my residents where I can’t really see anybody unless I make plans off campus or decide to go home for a weekend.