In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Western Illinois University recently faced another challenge: the annual move-in weekend. Residence halls on campus, which have remained nearly vacant since the pandemic struck in March, opened for move-in on Wednesday through Sunday. New students were able to move in Wednesday through Thursday and returning students were able to move in on Friday through Sunday.
Changes were noticeable throughout every facet of the weekend. This year, rather than moving in at a certain time depending on how many miles away from campus they live, students had to sign up for a one hour move-in appointment to ensure that social distancing could be maintained as well as wearing masks at all times, both inside and outside the residence halls. In addition, students were limited to bringing two guests to assist them with their belongings. Both students and guests were required to wear masks and have their temperatures taken prior to being allowed to check-in and were required to remain in their vehicles until their exact move-in time. Carts were sanitized between every use, extending waiting times for students. Even the packing list, which remains fairly standard, was updated to include a digital thermometer, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer and masks.
The annual tradition of the move-in crew was noticeably absent from the day’s events. While there was no move-in crew physically helping students transport their belongings, various resident assistants and other student leaders assisted with taking temperatures, reminding people to wear their masks over their noses and ensuring social distancing was occurring at all times.
Student Member to the Board of Trustees Justin Brown who assisted with this year’s move in said, “I have helped with move-in every year and this year was no exception. While it was very different, that same sense of excitement was in the air. Students, both new and returning, had an energy that brought a smile to my face – even though it may not have been visible underneath the mask. It was a challenge navigating how to safely and efficiently move in the largest freshman class in years, but housing worked hard to ensure that students and their families were abiding by not only Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, but also by all of the policies the university has in place. While this year will be different, it will still provide our students with the high quality education that they have become accustomed to.”
Brown mentioned an increase in enrollment among both freshmen and transfer students, which while positive for the university, has provided an additional challenge to those working in housing. With the residence halls in North Quad being offline, Thompson, Corbin, Olson, Lincoln, Washington and Grote have students on all floors, even the second floor of Corbin, which typically serves as a conference floor for guests on campus. With full residence halls and a sense of uncertainty about what the semester will bring, all students are now moved in and set to start classes.