Lehigh welcomed back first-year students to campus this fall. Around 200 non first-year students petitioned to be able to live on-campus. (Courtesy of Wikipedia Creative Commons)

Gryphons face new challenges in residence halls

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Gryphons are in a unique situation this year as they manage new challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Students serving as Gryphons, who act as Resident Assistants in residence halls, weren’t notified that they would be returning to campus and living in freshman dorms until a few weeks before the start of classes.

The university has put in place a series of COVID-19 guidelines, such as requiring masks and social distancing, designating all rooms as singles and limiting gatherings to 10 people or less.

Laura Duffany

Laura Duffany, ’23, a new Gryphon living in McClintic-Marshall House, described the situation as “chaotic.”

“I’m actually from Puerto Rico, so when I heard on Aug. 3 that they were going to have us come back, I knew that I had to quarantine for 14 days, but our training was scheduled to start on Aug. 15,” Duffany said. “So literally, the math does not add up. I ended up buying my plane ticket 15 hours in advance.” 

“For me, that’s been hard, because I understand how difficult it is to make friends at college, and it’s just kind of heartbreaking to me.” 

 

-Laura Duffany, ’23, Gryphon

Zach Cottler

Zach Cotter, ’23, said he was initially nervous because he was looking forward to bonding with his residents but was concerned students wouldn’t be able to make friends.

Cotter said he’s already planning some creative socially distanced events for his hall. He said as a political science major, he can’t relate academically to many of his residents, who are mainly engineering students, but they do share at least one common interest: Avatar. 

“We’re planning to have an outdoor movie night,” Cotter said. “I talked to my residents, and my theme is Avatar this semester. A bunch of my residents have actually watched Avatar, so I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, we need to have an Avatar themed movie night!’”

Amie Januszkiewicz, ’21, head Gryphon of Lower Cents, said she hasn’t struggled much with adjusting to the new environment. She said not much has changed from past years, besides the new COVID-19 rules.

Amie Januszkiewicz

“Things are functioning like normal,” Januszkiewicz said.  “There’s maybe not as much as activity or friend-making that I would like to happen for the residents, so that’s kind of difficult. But we have our bulletin boards and door decorations up, so that hasn’t changed.” 

Januszkiewicz said she has encountered some difficulties in enforcing the university’s guidelines, particularly in ensuring that residents wear masks at all times. She said especially in residential areas and in doing routine activities — such as running to the bathroom — students may forget their masks

Januszkiewicz said she tries to strike a balance between keeping students safe and still allowing them to socialize as much as possible under the current conditions.

“I kind of bargain with them,” she said. “I’ll say, ‘Hey, make sure you keep your masks on, and it would be great if you guys could spread out.’ It’s kind of like finding that fine line, which is already kind of what I do in the role, but it’s hard because this time, it’s people’s health that we’re dealing with.”  

Duffany said she also struggles with enforcing the COVID-19 policies, especially those related to social distancing. 

“The biggest challenge for me has been separating these poor freshmen who are just trying to make friends in the best way that they can,” Duffany said. “For me, that’s been hard, because I understand how difficult it is to make friends at college, and it’s just kind of heartbreaking to me.” 

Duffany said she wishes the administration had been more communicative with students.

When an area of McClintic-Marshall was placed under quarantine because of a suspected coronavirus case, the school didn’t issue a statement or provide much guidance, she said. 

“I had residents coming up to me asking what the deal was, and I didn’t even know what to tell them,” Duffany said. “So in that sense, it’s been a little crazy.”  

Despite the challenges, Cotter said he feels Gryphons feel a sense of appreciation from Residential Life for the work they’ve been doing. He said he has enjoyed the first few weeks of his Gryphon experience.

“It’s a different world, but it’s definitely still a good one, and I’m having a really good time,” Cotter said.

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