Mysterious lounge fridges, modified cafeteria policies, daytime parties: life on residence during the COVID-19 pandemic

Campus Local News

UVic recommends social distancing as remaining campus residents continue to party

Photo by Michael John Lo

A day after the University of Victoria began asking students to move out early from residence, Residence Services began to implement government-recommended social distancing policies on students. Despite these efforts, some students remaining on residence continue to party outdoors and resist the lifestyle changes crucial to social distancing.  

Students have continued to check out of residence en-masse after an announcement that the university will transition away from face-to-face instruction for the remainder of the term. For those who remained on campus, UVic officially implemented social distancing policies and recommendations on March 18.

“It’s surreal at the moment. It’s just a constant stream of people moving out at all hours of the day,” said Acacia Lee, a first-year Ring Road resident originally from Pender Island. “The uncertainty of whether or not services will continue to run is kind of pushing me out, as well as the money that they’re offering us to leave.” 

In an email sent one day after St. Patrick’s Day, UVic recommended that residents avoid large celebrations and other group gatherings, suggesting that it is safer instead to listen to music at low volumes or study for end of term assessments. The email also warned residents to use caution when visiting the campus cafeteria. In another email sent on March 19, UVic initiated exam season quiet hours of 9 p.m to 8 a.m. and set out recommended occupancy limits for the various housing rooms on campus.

In a noticeably quieter Cadboro Commons cafeteria, newly installed stickers on the floor indicate the recommended standing spots for social distancing in the food serving area, which have so far only occasionally been observed by students. Self-service food stations and fruit baskets are now off-limits to students and only operated by staff on request. Food delivery services to dorms are apparently also available to students. 

Photo by Michael John Lo

Some students who have chosen to stay on campus see the policies as just a nuisance, rather than steps taken to lessen the effects of a pandemic. 

“Everyone I’ve talked to has just kind of laughed at the stickers on the floor,” said Lee. “Some people are just definitely just treating it like an extended break.”

Despite reminders from UVic Community Leaders (CLs) about conduct rules, gatherings are still commonplace throughout the residences — including lawn parties on the cluster quad.

“It is both an individual and community responsibility to flatten the curve, and limit the spread of COVID-19 on campus and in residence. This might mean saying no to activities you have previously enjoyed, or connecting with friends in new ways,” read an email from UVic Residence Services. 

Photo by Michael John Lo

New full-sized refrigerators have been installed in residence lounges across campus. At least two truckloads of fridges were spotted on campus by Lee. There has been no official announcement regarding the presence of these new appliances. The Martlet has contacted Residence Services about the fridges, who have not responded at the time of publication. 

The uncertainty, Lee says, is taking a toll on students. 

“It hasn’t even been a week since classes have shut down and it feels like a month because it’s just update after update … [The university is] trying their best but there tends to be rumours for a day and then the announcement happens. It feels like the university isn’t on top of announcements,” said Lee.

Lee guesses that most students will either leave before March 27 to take advantage of UVic’s partial refund, or stay until the end of April so that they can move into their summer accommodations. 

“I’m thankful that the university is taking it seriously, but it is also very isolating,” she said. “A lot of people move into residences for social purposes, and now that they’re saying ‘please don’t interact with other people,’ it kind of defeats the whole purpose.” 
Health officials are encouraging people to wash their hands and consider social distancing, and for anyone exhibiting symptoms to stay home. For more information, please visit the B.C. Centre for Disease Control website.