Campus life – joining organizations, going to fun events, and taking advantage of on-campus facilities – is an important part of getting the full college experience. But, how can students do this in the time of a global pandemic?
“In my opinion, events are changing, not disappearing,” said University of Tampa Student Government president, Abigail Byrne. “We are looking at university guidelines and thinking creatively about how we can make events safe and fun for students. We know that this year is going to look very different, but it has been a fun challenge to think outside of the box in terms of event planning.”
For the first week of classes, Student Government has been planning Week of Welcome (WOW) events, some of which will be hosted through Zoom. Students can also count on a big Constitution Day event, voter registration promotion, and an event co-sponsored with Student Productions for a Fall Weekend event.
“Unfortunately, due to the circumstances, we are going to have less in-person events this semester,” said Carley Bernstein, Student Productions president. “Right now, we are focusing on our WOW events for incoming and returning students.”
There will be three in-person and three virtual events throughout the week. Some in-person events include a Do It Yourself (DIY) Night on Friday, Aug. 21, the film “Jumanji: The Next Level” on Monday, Aug. 24, and a performance by local songwriter Jariah Higgins on Wednesday, Aug. 26. In addition, there will be a virtual games night with bingo and trivia on Sunday, Aug. 23, a virtual escape room on Friday, Aug. 28, and a virtual scavenger hunt on Saturday, Aug. 29.
“We are working hard to find the right balance between in-person and virtual events to still provide the variety of events the returning students are used to,” said Bernstein. “Even though the quantity of our in-person events this semester is decreased, the quality will be nothing less than what students are used to and may even be better.”
Students can find more details about these events on Student Productions social media accounts, @utampasp.
Another thing students can look forward to is the fact that all of the dining halls will be open this semester, even though some of the facilities will be combined, such as Pandini’s and Mindful in Morsani Hall, so that Salsa Rico has more room to ensure physical distancing.
“Due to COVID-19, Dining Services will still be offering the foods that everyone loves,” said Stephanie Crocco, marketing manager of UT Dining Services. “But, the retail concepts will have condensed menus to expedite service.”
To-go options will be offered. These will be labeled as ‘Simply To Go’ and can be found in Ultimate Dining, Spartan Club, Morsani Hall and Rathskeller. Self-serve stations will turn into either prepackaged items or a food service employee will serve the station.
Students will also notice the following changes to help prevent the spread of the virus: Dining halls will have a seating capacity of 50% as mandated by the state and tables will be removed to seat accordingly. Tables are separated six feet apart and masks will be required in all dining halls unless the guests are seated at a table.
There will be floor attendants to guide the guests to the seats that are available and to monitor the flow of incoming traffic. Dining attendants will sanitize tables and chairs after each use, as well as sanitize the countertops and register equipment every 30 minutes.
Until further notice, cash payments will not be accepted, only credit cards and Spartan ID cards (meal swipes, Spartan Dollars, UT Dollars), which will be contactless.
“There will still be a quality dining experience for students, faculty, and staff,” said Crocco. “It’ll just be done in a different way from past years to accommodate the safety restrictions due to COVID-19.”
Dining Services has also partnered with ResLife to deliver food to students who have to self-isolate and quarantine on campus.
Students can receive updates by following Dining Services on social media (@utdiningservices) and all safety protocols are available on their website, https://dining.ut.edu/.
On Monday, July 27, the Macdonald-Kelce Library opened to the UT community and since then has been preparing for the return of students by installing plexiglass partitions at the checkout and reference desks, adding signage to maintain physical distancing, installing a temperature station and repositioning furniture to promote physical distancing.
“The plan is to reopen with our regular hours and intermittent cleaning will be occurring, right now there is no plan to close the library during the day,” said Marlyn Pethe, library director. “The smaller study rooms will be on a first come, first served basis and the larger ones will be booked as they are now.”
The Interlibrary Loan service allows libraries to borrow materials from other libraries and is available to current UT students, staff, faculty members and Friends of the Library, according to the library’s website. In early July, Interlibrary Loan staff began lending physical items as well as electronic materials.
Students will have the option to ask reference questions in-person, by chat or by Zoom.
Curbside delivery will also be an option this semester. Physical materials will be delivered to the student, if he/she has to self-isolate or quarantine.
For more information regarding the Macdonald-Kelce Library, visit https://libguides.utopia.ut.edu/.