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.”