The Dalhousie University Student Union (DSU) wants to see a fun but safe return to campus. They’re planning a return of all traditional student life events under the safety protocols set by the province and university.
“Most university students miss the time they didn’t get to spend socializing last year,” said DSU President Madeline Stinson. “I think we’ll see students making up for lost time.”
Last year, Dal’s Orientation-week (O-week) was heavily restricted due to the pandemic. Most events were online and there was only one in-person event per day, this year there will be four to five on-campus events per day over the four-day period.
“We want to bring students back in as large of a way as we can,” said Stinson.
Welcoming students back
O-week runs from Sept. 4 to Sept. 7 and is a ticketed event specifically for first-year students. After that, Sept. 8 to Sept. 11 is welcome week, which offers free on-campus programming for all Dalhousie students.
O-week has a wide range of in-person events including an on-campus beach party, a carnival in the Studley quad and an outdoor movie night.
Stinson said people unable to attend O-week are encouraged to come to Welcome Week events, “I know second-years didn’t get a big welcome to campus last year because of [the pandemic]. We want to make sure second-years have an experience as well.”
Welcome week has more causal events like a welcome back party on the Studley quad and a trivia night in the Grawood, the DSU’s bar in the Student Union Building.
They will be open the first week of classes, according to Stinson. Both bars are hosting some of the O-week and Welcome Week events. Stinson said both bars will be installing plexiglass barriers for added safety.
Keeping it safe
Like Dalhousie’s reopening plan, these events will be following the safety guidelines laid out by the province.
The government calls the final stage of the phased reopening plan “the new normal of living during COVID-19.” At the time of writing, the province plans to move into phase five on Sept. 15.
Part of that new normal is heading back to student events and programming.
Nova Scotia is currently in phase four of its reopening plan, which limits outdoor gatherings to 250 people. “We were hoping for phase five a little bit sooner, but we adapted,” said Stinson.
The DSU has come up with ways to host events while following those safety guidelines. There will be 500 attendees at O-week, according to Stinson, but events will be rotational. “We’ll only have up to 250 people at a time at a given event,” she said.
The DSU is taking additional precautions to ensure safety on campus during the return. “We’ll have hand sanitizer stations on campus. We’ll also be hosting rapid testing out of the Student Union Building that week,” said Stinson.
Stinson believes that at a certain point, the health and safety of students is up to them, especially when it comes to social distancing, she said.
“Its up to individuals on their own to maintain their bubbles and social distance. But we’ve been living with COVID for going on two years so we’re all used to it at this point,” she said.
Verity Turpin, Dalhousie’s acting vice-provost of student affairs, trusts the DSU and the students themselves to have a safe return to campus. “I have no doubt our students and our community will keep each other safe,” she said.
“As vice-president of student affairs, I have had great pride over how students have handled safety during this pandemic,” Turpin said.
“The big point to drive home is, if everyone comes into the space with concern for one another and makes the right choice for them, we’ll be able to deal with whatever happens,” said Stinson.
DSU asking for student input
Stinson wants students to push for campus events throughout the year, “If there’s programming students want to see, contact the DSU and we’ll try to make it happen safely,” Stinson said.
Students with ideas for future campus events, or concern for the safety of these events, can contact the DSU’s vice-president (student life) Mazen Brisha at firstname.lastname@example.org.