St. Thomas University’s “new normal” campus opened on Sept. 8. After over a year and a half of learning from home, students have returned to the classroom.
“It’s been awesome to see all these faces that I haven’t seen in over a year, and it’s really nice to have that face-to-face aspect in classes instead of just being in front of a screen,” said Ady King, a third-year human rights and political science student.
Although the campus is no longer virtual, it doesn’t look the same as when students left in March of 2020. Masks are mandated, arrows guide students through doorways and vaccines are as close to mandatory as possible. Still, New Brunswick faces its highest level of COVID-19 cases yet according to the Government of New Brunswick.
“I don’t, for some reason, feel worried about [COVID-19] coming over to campus,” said King. “Maybe that’s a false sense of security, but I do feel pretty safe with the measures that [STU administration] have put in place.”
Many of the campus health protocols carry over to residence; masks are mandated in hallways, and there are limits to the number of guests in each room. Meal hall has its own set of regulations, some of which are at odds with protocols within residence buildings.
Sam Stoddard is a first-year student who is experiencing these restrictions firsthand.
“You can have your face mask off when you’re eating and talking to people, so that’s good,” said Stoddard, who lives at Rigby Hall.
Stoddard said there are no bubbles within meal hall and students can sit with anyone. The first-year student said he thinks the regulations are safe enough.
But just a week into classes, fourth-year student Tyler Dupuis said some rules are already being forgotten.
“A lot of people just ignore the signs and go where they need to go,” said Dupuis.
Dupuis is also concerned with the lack of precautions students are taking off-campus where STU’s rules do not apply.
“It is discouraging to see the Graham Street parties [and] the couch burnings at UNB [University of New Brunswick] that you see on social media,” said Dupuis.
Despite the urge to believe that COVID-19 is gone, Dupuis said that we are still in a pandemic but just learning to live with it. He said that even if people are vaccinated, they can still get sick.
Dupuis said his dyslexia and attention deficit disorder made online learning difficult and he had to take this past winter semester off. He is worried that if students do not take the pandemic seriously, cases will start to rise and STU will go back online, jeopardizing the success of students, like him, who need to be on campus.
“It is disheartening to see so many people go off of campus and think that life is resumed and that COVID-19 never happened,” said Dupuis.