On Sept. 25, Carolyn Milligan, assistant to the vice president of student affairs, sent out an unprecedented email that urged students to remain on campus over both Fall and Thanksgiving break “in order to avoid an increase in transmissions” of COVID-19.
While many students had already made plans to leave, Residence Assistants were urged to stay in Hillsdale in order to accommodate students who chose to remain in their dorms over break.
Senior Abigail Patrick, head RA of Benzing Residence, said that this wasn’t a big departure from the norm.
“Someone always has to stay on campus over break,” she said. “Usually it’s the house mom, and maybe a couple of RAs if they want to stay as well. But because the college is keeping dorms open for Fall break and Thanksgiving break, it makes sense that they would need people who know all the emergency procedures to stay on campus.”
Emma Purdy, an RA in Olds Residence, also said that their house mom, Rachel Marinko, and head RA, Greta Dornbirer, would stay through fall break.
“We’re encouraged to stay, just like the rest of campus, but it’s not something that the college is forcing us to do,” she said. “Rachel and Greta have been really good about letting us decide whether we want to stay or not.”
Purdy said that many girls in Olds were unsure about whether they should stay behind or leave campus.
“A lot of the girls are pretty stressed out about it,” she said. “I had a lot of girls come up to me and other RAs, and they’re just worried about whether they should stay back or not, and whether they’ll be allowed to come back if they leave.”
For the students who decided to travel, COVID-19 wasn’t much of an obstacle. Junior Lily McHale, who stayed at a cabin on Torch Lake with a group of friends, said that they didn’t encounter any problems because of the virus.
“We did a lot of things outside and away from big groups of people, so I don’t think COVID-19 really affected us at all,” she said. “We wore masks when we went inside of shops and restaurants, but other than that it didn’t affect us that much.”
Senior Saige Connelly and Brian Freimuth, a student at the Van Andel Graduate School of Statesmanship, had a few run-ins with COVID-19 regulations on Mackinac Island.
“The only way COVID-19 affected us at all was when we would go out to eat,” Connelly said. “Basically we’d walk up, and someone would maybe nag us for not wearing a mask because we’d usually walk in without one to see if we could get away with it. We’d wear a mask in, we’d sit down, and then we’d take it off.”
According to Freimuth, “we found an Irish bar that didn’t enforce any of the masking stuff, so they became our favorite bar for the trip.”
Sophomore Allison Dillow, who flew home over break, was the most affected by COVID-19 regulations.
“My family was more comfortable with me coming back home for break,” she said. “I initially was going to travel to a larger city but COVID-19 played a big part in those plans changing.”
Dillow said that the plane ride home was very different from trips that she’d taken pre-COVID-19.
“Everyone was wearing masks, there were strict health and cleaning procedures, and even the snacks on the plane were given to each passenger in a bag instead of individually,” she said.
The last time Hillsdale students left for a break, we didn’t come back for six months. Despite the inconveniences posed by COVID-19, we can all celebrate one thing: our return to Hillsdale.