By Samantha Hilyer
Saint Vincent prefects who live in the same building are now allowed to visit each other, despite not living in the same “neighborhoods.”
Campus residents have been split into neighborhoods— groups of students who can visit with each other if they so choose in their dorms— since arriving back on campus for in-person classes in the fall semester of 2020. However, prefects are not permitted to visit students in other neighborhoods, and due to their administrative role, are discouraged from visiting within their own neighborhoods as well, leaving them arguably more isolated than other students who can visit within their neighborhoods.
Dr. John Smetanka, vice president of Academic Affairs, academic dean and a member of the Forward Together Advisory Committee, reported that Student Affairs approached the committee regarding the housing mitigation plan and how it impacted prefects at the end of the fall semester.
“What [Student Affairs] was seeing was that prefects, due to their job responsibilities, were especially hard hit by the neighborhood structures,” Smetanka said. “There was a lot of concern about their well-being and happiness.”
Some non-prefect students, like Matthew Byrne, sophomore engineering major, were not aware that this policy change had occurred.
“I had no idea,” Byrne said.
The Forward Together Advisory Committee is a group of Saint Vincent faculty and staff who examine recommendations from a variety of people involved in campus life that may impact the COVID-19 mitigation efforts. They can then move those recommendations to the President’s Cabinet for either approval or disapproval. After review, the proposed change in prefect visitation policy was accepted just before the spring 2021 semester.
Bob Baum, dean of students, called the decision “a small accommodation to help with morale,” since prefects do not have the liberty of choosing their housing arrangements and cannot live around friends like other students.
The Forward Together Advisory Committee deemed the policy change to be a low risk in terms of hindering the mitigation measures because prefects already cross neighborhood boundaries to accomplish their work. While visiting one another, prefects are still expected to follow safety guidelines, such as mask wearing and social distancing.
However, this change in visitation policy for prefects does not mean that COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted.
“If we were to allow all students to cross [neighborhood boundaries] there would be more risk,” Smetanka said. “The trouble is that we are seeing an increase, not a decrease, in cases.”
Despite the continuation of strict mitigation efforts, the Forward Together Advisory Committee does allow as many low-risk activities as they can, such as allowing parents to attend athletic events outside.
“Eventually, we will allow visitation, and this will end soon,” Smetanka said.