The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the way that we interact with one another. The pandemic has led to a lot more isolation, social distancing and a lack of in-person interactions. This has been difficult, especially when it comes to the communal nature of a college campus.
Many have relied on the nice weather as a crutch because it is much easier to socialize outside. There is plenty of space to social distance, and there are less worries about masks because of more circulation of air outside.
As it is starting to get colder, it's going to be a lot harder to spend time with others while remaining safe and responsible. There are far fewer opportunities to interact with one another in indoor settings because there are strict rules regarding eating indoors and limits on the number of people allowed to be in a communal space at a time.
It is obviously very important to recognize the rules in place in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and IU has made attempts to provide options for its students when it comes to communal spaces. For example, there will be outdoor tents with heaters for dining to try to give students safe options to socialize as it gets colder.
The tents and heaters are a valiant effort, but it's uncertain if they will be effective. Just because the heaters are outside does not change the fact that it is cold, and the tents are still a very open space that may not keep students warm. It feels like the intentions are good, but the execution may be lacking.
Without any indoor dining areas for students to eat, the only other option is to take every meal back to their dorm room. Students from different residence halls and even other floors in the same building are not allowed in other students’ rooms.
This will only get worse as more problems arise with shared communal space on campus. With fewer outdoor spaces for students to use, there are more students packed into the Indiana Memorial Union and other communal study areas. As these get full, on-campus students are forced to retreat back into their dorm rooms yet again.
The need for decisive and preventative action to address COVID-19 is essential, but there does not seem to be a cohesive plan on campus. Most, if not all, policies force students into isolation. IU decided to bring its students back to campus this semester, but it is not providing as many safe resources for communal living as many students hoped.
What IU has done so far to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 has worked, and it has implemented lots of important policies. Mitigation tests for students, mask requirements and easily accessible hand sanitizer have all been tremendously important for operating during the pandemic.
However, there is more that can be done to bring socialization to students without sacrificing safety. There can be designated socially distanced dining areas indoors by implementing the use of plastic dividers. These can be sanitized and cleaned so students are able to spend time with one another while staying safe.
Purdue University has offered students access to limited indoor dining options, as have Butler University and Marian University. These Indiana schools may vary in size, but they all have developed plans for their students to dine indoors while taking into account student safety.
That being said, there is only so much that can be done during a pandemic, and some forms of isolation are going to be inevitable. Living out of our dorm rooms is not something anyone wants to do, though. No one wants to be driven into isolation out of lack of viable options on campus.
We need to continue to be creative and come up with meaningful solutions to the problems that cold weather brings. IU may not have all the solutions to operating during the cold, but hopefully it will continue to improve and try to create more safe opportunities and spaces for students on campus.
Aidan Kramer (she/her) is a freshman studying microbiology and environmental science. After graduating, she plans to attend medical school and pursue a career in pathology.