The department is determined to help students have the best on-campus living experience possible when they arrive on campus.
When the coronavirus pandemic forced classes at Texas Tech University to move online for the remainder of the spring semester and part of the summer, many incoming students were left wondering if they would be able to move into their residence hall and live on campus come August.
University Student Housing has been working diligently to ensure students get that on-campus living experience, even if it looks different than it has in years past.
Sean Duggan, managing director for University Student Housing, said the department has made changes to the move-in process, visitor rules, cleaning procedures and occupancy, as well as preparations in case students become ill. All of this has been done to bring students back to a safe and healthy environment while still providing them with the traditional first-year student experience.
"We are focusing on that first-year student and trying to make sure they have the opportunity to have that residence hall experience at Texas Tech," Duggan said.
When students make their way to Lubbock for the fall semester, the move-in process will look much different than it has in previous years. This year, the halls will open a week earlier, on Aug. 8 instead of Aug. 15, and students will sign up for a check-in time slot.
The time slot will be an hour and a half long, and students can check in anytime during that window. Once they arrive on campus, rather than going in and standing in line with other students to check in, they will call their hall office and the residence hall staff will bring their key and paperwork to the car.
If someone misses their check-in window, the housing staff will work to get them checked in later in the day whenever they arrive, while still working to control the population coming in at once.
"This way, we don't have lines with people standing around," Duggan said. "They're safer that way."
Each residence hall will have a drop-off zone for students and their families to unload their vehicles closer to the building. Carts also will be available for students to use, as well as disinfectant wipes to sanitize the carts before use.
While there will not be a limit on how many people can accompany students while they move in, face masks will be required and the department is asking students to be mindful of social distancing and to take other precautionary measures to keep themselves and others safe.
"Make sure you're making good choices," Duggan said. "We want everybody to be as safe as possible, but still have an enjoyable experience of going off to college."
Duggan said the department is doing everything it can to ensure students have a good first experience living on campus and that these new measures will make the process less stressful and keep families safer while sending their student off to college.
"A lot of it, I think, is going to be better customer service," Duggan said. "We won't have lines. Hopefully, we won't have crowded elevators. Everybody can just kind of go slow and it will be less stressful to move in."
Sanitization and staying healthy
Before the coronavirus outbreak, University Student Housing was already meeting the now-recommended ways to maintain cleanliness and sanitization in all the residence halls. As students return to campus, Duggan said the department's custodial staff will continue those high standards for everyone's safety.
"We're going to maintain that," Duggan said, "but we're also focusing more on high-touch areas and surfaces, all those kinds of things."
One of the ways the department will do this is by providing sanitization misters and cleaning supplies to each residence hall office. This will allow the staff in each building to keep those high-touch areas clean throughout the day and tackle any problem areas that may arise quickly, rather than having to wait for the custodial staff to respond.
"We're not going to wait for the housekeeper to show up," Duggan said. "We're going to have the tools for our staff to be able to help handle the situation."
Another change University Student Housing is implementing is having hand sanitizer in the main lobby and each elevator lobby. Duggan said they also are recommending students have their own sanitizer with them, as well as bringing cleaning and sanitization products for their room.
University Student Housing staff members will be wearing face masks when interacting with students and visitors, and face masks will be required when in common areas, such as the lobby and study rooms.
If a student does happen to get sick while living in the resident hall, Duggan said they will be directed to the Student Wellness Center as soon as possible. After that, the department will follow instructions and directions from other departments regarding what that student might need.
If a residential student tests positive for COVID-19, University Student Housing and the university is prepared to assist them with getting back to full health.
Occupancy and visitors
Earlier this summer, University Student Housing made the decision to keep all rooms at double occupancy rather than having some three- and four-person rooms. This reduced the number of beds by around 210, which also reduced the density by about 2.5%.
To also help maintain the population of the residence halls and keep students healthy, the department is asking that students only have one visitor per resident in their room at a time. So, if two students live in a room, there should only be two visitors at a time.
Duggan said if students do not follow this guideline, a staff member will encourage them to separate for their own health and safety.
"We want students to feel like this is their home," Duggan said. "However, it is a home with hundreds of other students as well. So, they need to take charge of their own health."
Overall, while returning to campus and living in the residence halls may look different in the fall, Duggan said University Student Housing is doing everything it can to prioritize students' health and ensure they get the full first-year, on-campus experience at Texas Tech.
"It's a real commitment from the whole institution to try and help first-year students have the best environment possible to be successful in their academics," Duggan said. "We know that students who live on campus have higher GPAs, take more hours, progress more through their classes and make more friends.
"There's so much out there that shows having that on-campus experience is vital for students to feel engaged with the institution. We want to try and help students arrive, settle into their home and have as stress-free start as possible to their academic career."