SHARE
Signs on Hillsdale Col­lege’s campus during the July 2020 com­mencement weekend asked stu­dents to wear a mask and stay six feet apart in the wake of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic. Col­legian. | Carmel Kookogey

Hillsdale College released its official return-to-campus pro­tocols for stu­dents, staff, and faculty on Aug. 5. Among some of the biggest changes: mandatory masks indoors, daily tem­per­ature checks, and newly-installed anti-viral tech­nology.

In an email to stu­dents, Hillsdale College Pres­ident Larry Arnn said freshman con­vo­cation and the first day of classes will “occur as scheduled” on Aug. 23 and 26, respec­tively. He stressed the college is doing every­thing in its power to resume normal activ­ities in a safe and legal manner.

“Right now there are no legal imped­i­ments to our resuming,” Arnn wrote. He said the college con­sulted with three leading public health and epi­demi­ology experts to craft its reopening plan.

“We have taken many steps to ensure the safety of everyone, espe­cially those in vul­nerable groups,” Arnn said. “You will see that they are far-reaching.

Among the new pro­ce­dures — listed exten­sively at returnplan.hillsdale.edu—are man­dated masks indoors and daily health screenings until Sept. 5, nurses on call after hours, and dining hall capacity reduced to 50% with two new grab-and-go loca­tions for stu­dents, one in Stro­sacker Science Center and one in Lane Hall. The college will also reserve four apart­ments in the College Park Town­houses to quar­antine any stu­dents who may con­tract COVID-19. 

“These steps comply with the law as it exists today, and will be adjusted as nec­essary,” Arnn said in the email. “Also it com­plies with the best evi­dence about the nature and course of the virus, insofar as we can determine what that is.” 

In addition to these pro­tocols, equipment has been installed across campus to help reduce the rate of virus trans­mission indoors.

All campus buildings have been equipped with modular ion­ization tech­nology ”doc­u­mented to neu­tralize and elim­inate COVID-19.” High-effi­ciency par­tic­ulate absorbing (HEPA) air filters will also be installed in high-traffic areas, and four Clorox 360 machines — elec­tro­static dis­in­fectant sprayers — will be used to dis­infect large rooms in “an average of five minutes.” 

Arnn con­cluded the email with an exhor­tation to the Hillsdale com­munity not to shrink from this chal­lenge, nor neglect its work as a college. 

“We should proceed about that work intensely, as always we do,” Arnn said. “We should be cau­tious about any­thing that spreads the coro­n­avirus, but we should not forget the joy of being together.”

This joy of being together is some­thing Dean of Women Diane Philipp does not want the college to lose sight of. 

“We’re trying so hard to keep this momentum going of the typical, fun Hillsdale atmos­phere,” Philipp said. “It’s going to be a chal­lenge. So we’re going to try to get everybody to partner with us to keep that momentum and joy hap­pening.” 

Philipp eyes the Class of 2020’s grad­u­ation, which took place the weekend of July 18, as the model for a suc­cessful semester. 

“We’re really trying to create that same culture that occurred during grad­u­ation. We had 2,700 on campus,” Philipp said. 

During the weekend, grad­uates and their guests were required to wear masks indoors and were subject to daily tem­per­ature checks. The com­mencement cer­emony took place outside at Frank “Muddy” Waters Football Stadium, where everyone sat six feet apart. There are no known coro­n­avirus cases con­nected to the event.

“No one struggled with the require­ments, they were dutiful about it and really came together,” Philipp said. “Grad­u­ation showed us that everyone is smart and serious, and that’s what we’re expecting this time, too.”

Philipp said mask-wearing will be espe­cially important for the first two weeks on campus.

“We’re going to have to have everyone mask up and to be really dutiful about it. It is the one thing that seems to really help,” she said. 

Philipp stressed that the college is working hard to ensure that stu­dents will get to par­tic­ipate in the normal, fun activ­ities Hillsdale offers.

“Student Activ­ities is doing a ton. They’re going to try their best to create fun — per­mitting social dis­tancing and we’re going to require masks at all events — but you should be social­izing as normal human beings,” she said.

“We have to make some changes, but we’re going to get as close as we can to it as long as everybody abides by a few basic prin­ciples.” 

Director of Health Ser­vices Brock Lutz said the college’s coro­n­avirus plan is solid, as it’s based on Centers for Disease Control and Pre­vention guide­lines and input from Hillsdale Hos­pital.

“We are going to do every­thing we can to keep everyone as safe as pos­sible while we do what we love, which is to learn and grow together as intel­lectual and moral people,” Lutz said in an email.

One big reason to bring stu­dents back on campus was mental health, Lutz said. Stu­dents, as human beings, are meant to bond together in com­munity.

“In quar­antine, it became very apparent that it is very hard for stu­dents to engage in the level of intense learning and edu­cation on their own and very clear that it is better for all of us men­tally, emo­tionally, and intel­lec­tually to do it together as a com­munity,” he said.