Olds hosted a “Mock Rock Dance Party” to foster dorm com­munity. Courtesy | Greta Dornmirer

From the outside, the last month at Gal­loway Res­i­dence might have appeared bleak. Res­ident assis­tants can­celed official events. Res­i­dents tested pos­itive for COVID-19. People were forced to quar­antine, leaving silent, half-empty dorms.

But hope is far from lost in the dorms. 

“There is the sense that we are all in this together,” sophomore RA Mark Tremaine said. “While we have lost a lot of the external parts of dorm culture, like Feast, I feel like that level of togeth­erness is still there.” 

While four out of the eight RAs were quar­an­tined from Sept. 25 to Oct. 6, including head RA Seth Ramm, acting head RA Soren Moody said he and the remaining RA team con­tinued to fuel hope in the dorm. 

“There’s a good deal of deter­mi­nation among the RA time to weather this time,” Moody said. “To take this chal­lenge to be an obstacle to be overcome.”

While dorm res­i­dents must wear masks in all public areas of the dorm again, the com­munity is still vibrant. Even though events such as Garden Party, Home­coming, Car­nival in the Arb, and Feast have been can­celed, Moody said it’s important to remember that such events are only the surface of the community. 

“Feast and any other dorm event is just a cat­alyst to allow guys to interact and form friend­ships,” Moody said. “I’ve already seen guys con­tinue to be invested in the com­munity that is here, even though dorm events like Feast have been can­celed. Those friend­ships have con­tinued to not just endure, but develop.”

Before pos­itive cases arose in Gal­loway, dorm events had been well attended, even in this era of COVID-19. Feast, for instance, had gone from around 10 – 15 attendees last year to 30 – 40 at the last gath­ering, Tremaine reported.

In addition to regular events, Gal­loway has exper­i­mented with new activ­ities this semester. For example, the Gal­loway RA team had a new weekly ath­letic event for dorm members to par­tic­ipate in: beach volleyball.

 “We offered Gal­loway vol­leyball this semester to get the ath­letes con­nected in the dorm, as they don’t have as many prac­tices and sporting events,” Tremaine said. “The first time we did that we had 20 – 30 guys show up and we have had a handful of guys who have been con­sis­tently doing that.”

But Gal­loway isn’t the only dorm getting cre­ative during this time. Other dorms have taken similar ini­tia­tives. Rachel Marinko, house director of Olds Dorm and res­i­dence life coor­di­nator, said that Olds has done its best to make up for not having home­coming this fall with a new event: a Mock Rock-themed dance party. 

“We wanted to create some­thing that would bring the girls together,” Marinko said. “It wasn’t exactly mock rock, but it was our attempt to create that atmosphere.”

“Seeing all the girls together dancing and laughing with one another was so special espe­cially as an RA,” con­tinued sophomore RA Emma Purdy. “I think it embodied the dorm culture we are trying to create in Olds this year.”

Nev­er­theless, Marinko said that these attempts have not been without difficulties. 

“The biggest dif­ference I’ve seen is the con­nection between other dorms,” she said. “Home­coming is a great time to get to know each other and get to show off their culture. It’s been really dif­ficult for the girls to meet people from other dorms and see dorm culture.”

New Dorm has shifted its focus from campus-wide events to intimate dorm events, including a monthly “You Go Girl Wednesday” event which has activ­ities from making friendship bracelets to pumpkin painting to spa nights. Despite the changes, there has been “a spirit of hope­fulness” in the dorm, RA Julia O’Neil said.

“I don’t think there has been a neg­ative change,” she said. “It has caused people to slow down and create natural interactions.”

This new sense of dorm identity has been ben­e­ficial for cre­ating real com­munity, O’Neil claims.

“This year has brought down a lot of expec­ta­tions and false per­cep­tions of what a dorm should be,” she said. “It has caused people to realize that living in com­munity together is really just inter­acting with one another and caring for one another in small ways, not cre­ating a com­munity image but rather focusing on individuals.”

In addition to regular dorm life, Greek life also con­tinues to thrive despite set­backs. The Hillsdale College Alpha Tau Omega chapter, for instance, has been able to bond well, even though they have been unable to host some of their official events, such as annex parties and socially-dis­tanced date parties with sororities.

“Overall, the school has been really good with us,” said senior Micah Perry, ATO’s pres­ident. “They have not put too many restric­tions on what we can do. We are able to operate about 90% normally.”

Some of their tra­di­tions that con­tinue include par­tic­i­pating in service outings, having dinner five times a week, and just hanging out with the guys, Perry said. Fur­thermore, during the three rush events, turnout numbers were even higher than usual. 

“If any­thing, I think it’s the opposite,” Perry said. “What you saw in the past six months is that people were very iso­lated and they weren’t with their friends, and they weren’t with anyone. They lacked human connection.”

The Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter, on the other hand, expe­ri­enced larger set­backs due to nationally-enforced restrictions

“Our fra­ternity put us on a mora­torium for 30 days,” Kappa Chapter Pres­ident Taylor Dick­erson said. “We weren’t allowed to have any chapter meetings that weren’t over Zoom, and we were not allowed to have any events.”

After fall break, however, the mora­torium lifted, so KKG was able to host their Kappa Kappa Color Run on Oct. 15th, where they raised $900 for their phil­an­thropy, Reading is Fundamental.

Nev­er­theless, they con­tinue to proceed with caution. This man­i­fested itself with required tem­per­ature checks and masks during the color run.

“We still have a little more restriction than what the college allows,” Dick­erson said. “We are just trying to keep everyone safe.”

KKG plans to do open houses and their “House of Blues” event in the coming weeks.

Perry summed up the sit­u­ation with a pos­itive outlook.

“We are being cau­tious, but we are opti­mistic about the semester,” he said. “At the end of the day, fra­ternity culture is needed now more than ever just like dorm culture, to bring people together and have that human con­nection that we have been missing for the past six months.”