Residents walk into SouthSide Commons. Students are still living in SouthSide Commons, but common spaces have been closed off to stop the spread of COVID-19. (David Owolabi/B&W Staff)

Students remain in SouthSide Commons amid COVID-19

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Despite the recent closure of Lehigh’s campus, students are still living in SouthSide Commons, an off-campus affiliated housing option for Lehigh juniors, seniors and graduate students. 

SouthSide Commons has closed off common spaces in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, community assistant Emily Nesgoda, ‘21, said. These spaces include study rooms, lounges, snack bars, the gym and even the free printer. 

“They canceled all of the events we usually do,” Nesgoda said. “We host residential events once or twice a month, like snack bars, and they canceled all of those.”

Nesgoda said most of the students still living in SouthSide are international students who did not have a way to get home, although every student has the option to stay. Nesgoda said she chose to move out of SouthSide. 

Eve Freed, ‘21, said she decided to stay in SouthSide Commons for the rest of the semester. Freed has 13 siblings, all home from school, and said she thought she would be more productive taking her virtual classes in her SouthSide apartment. 

In addition to closing common areas, Freed said the SouthSide mail center has changed its operations to decrease the interaction of large groups

“You can’t just go to the office and pick up your mail any time you want,” Freed said. “There are certain times of day you can go, and you have to call or email them that you are coming to pick up your mail or package in advance.” 

While students living on campus were forced to leave unless they had extenuating circumstances, Freed said residents of SouthSide Commons received little communication. 

She said the staff at SouthSide didn’t try to force anyone out of the building, and while they have cut off access to the common spaces, she hasn’t noticed a difference in the cleaning regimen around SouthSide. She said they don’t have hand sanitizer available in the lobby. 

Ryan Lynn,‘21, will also be staying in SouthSide until at least the end of the semester. He said besides the common spaces being shut down, not much has changed. 

“I think that out of most places right now, this is a good place to be because there aren’t that many people around,” Lynn said.

Nesgoda said the outbreak is not likely to impact future leases, since the majority of leases for those living in SouthSide Commons next year were already signed. She said students who moved out will not be refunded.

Nesgoda said she doesn’t think employees will lose their jobs, since employees are still working and being paid their salary or on an hourly basis. 

“The campus is a ghost town,” Freed said. “It’s really weird that the middle school (Broughal) is so quiet. I’m used to all the kids being outside since SouthSide is next to it.”

SouthSide Commons staff  has declined media inquiries at this time. 

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