It's an unusual year, but life must and does go on. As the College continues its first fully online semester, while gradually opening its community members' access to campus facilities, the well-being of SVA's students remains the number-one priority. While most are studying and working remotely and from their homes all over the world, residence life at SVA continues—albeit at a reduced capacity, due to COVID-19 concerns. Students who do live on campus are part of a unique community of artists in a diverse, supportive and secure living environment. Now more than ever, safety is paramount.
Several new precautions and procedures have been implemented for the 2020–21 academic year, including additional cleaning and disinfecting protocols; de-densifying efforts in living spaces, with no more than four students allocated to any bathroom or kitchen/cooking area per living unit; face-mask requirements in all shared areas of the residence halls; a stricter guest policy; and a rigorous quarantine and isolation policy, in the event that such safeguards are needed.
The College's Facilities and Residence Life staff worked tirelessly through the summer and early fall to ensure all fall 2020 resident students' care and protection. We talked to Residence Life Associate Director Stefanie Joshua recently about the new COVID-19 safety measures, the challenges her office has faced, and how life goes on and thrives at SVA.
Thank you for speaking with us. What are living arrangements looking like in the residence halls this year?
For the fall 2020 semester, each residential student is living one person per living unit, so that they each have a private bathroom and eating space in their personal quarters. Our RA and professional Residence Life staff is in place and living on campus for the academic year. Residential students who arrived from regions on New York's list of restricted states were able to complete their 14-day precautionary travel quarantine in their residence hall room, in conjunction with required follow-up to our office's guidelines.
How has the shift to low-occupancy affected residence life?
Our lowered occupancy for the fall semester not only allows each student to be in a situation where they could immediately self-isolate if needed, it also allows our Residence Life team to establish higher quality connections with residential students. All students connect via a personalized and individual Zoom meeting upon check-in, where we can review the numerous policy changes for the fall semester and answer questions, but also have one-on-one time with each student. The individual time is definitely a plus and would not necessarily be something that would be attainable at our maximum occupancy.
Move-in day must have looked very different this year. Were there any moments of joy or excitement despite the circumstances?
Move-in day was very different this year, unique and special in its own way. Our students and parents arrived wearing masks. We implemented a virtually "contactless check-in" process, which allowed for social distancing and all of the necessary safety precautions but still allowed our students and parents to have that connection, safely, with our Residence Life team. Our check-in packets this year also included SVA logo face masks for each residential student. It has definitely been one for the record books.
For more information on SVA Residence Life, click here. For additional details concerning housing and planning and policies for accommodations related to COVID-19, visit the Housing Policies and Restrictions Related to COVID-19 webpage.