by DEANNA BIONDI & JOSEPHINE JOHNSON
As social distancing guidelines extend into the summer, an email was sent to all students on April 14, announcing that on-campus activities will be suspended through June 30. Some students have expressed concerns about how this will affect students who planned on living on campus this summer, the coming preparations for the arrival of the class of 2024 in the fall, as well as the size of the incoming freshman class.
Freshman Ainsley Rucker was looking forward to living on campus this summer.
“I’ll definitely miss Fredericksburg and being at campus, I was planning on living with one of my really close friends over the summer so it is sad I won’t be able to see her or anyone else until August at the earliest,” said Rucker.
Summer painting jobs, another common summer housing opportunity for students, will still be taking place on campus this summer, but with careful sanitation and minus the housing.
“As a result of COVID-19 we are significantly downsizing the scope of our summer painting program in order to assure the health and safety concerns of all employees,” said Margaret Hinson, manager of the student painting program. “UMW will not be providing summer campus housing and the crew’s size will be restricted in number so social spacing protocols will be observed. We will be practicing tool and equipment sanitation while addressing the critical repairs and painting needs for the university.”
To comply with CDC guidelines, the remaining spring admissions events such as Open House, Destination UMW and MOVE have been cancelled.
To make up for the cancellation of essential information events for incoming students, virtual information sessions have been scheduled for admitted students, by registration only. General information sessions are being held every week day at 3 p.m. and sessions for admitted students are held on Wednesdays at noon. Subject-based sessions are also offered.
In addition to these subject-based sessions, one-hour live Zoom meetings have been arranged every weeknight at 7 p.m. for incoming students to connect with current students and ask any questions they may have about life at Mary Washington.
“We are planning tons of new ways to make sure everyone feels prepared for the new school year,” said orientation leader Mia Buffington, a freshman. “We want to form those connections between new students so they feel like part of the community when they finally come to campus in the fall.”
On April 13, it was confirmed that this years’ orientation will be held virtually. The undergraduate orientation page of UMW’s website states that orientation registration has been temporarily closed and that guest fees will be refunded.
When asked about the enrollment rates for the coming fall semester, Kimberly Williams, the vice president for Enrollment Management, said, “Yes, we have seen a decrease in enrollment deposits compared to previous years although it is too early to know exactly how, and to what extent, this pandemic will impact us.”
Many prospective students and their families are still in the process of making college decisions; admitted students have until May 1 to decide whether Mary Washington is right for them in the context of the pandemic.
“I think the overall uncertainty of the health crisis, coupled with the growing economic crisis, has impacted the decision making process,” Williams said.
According to Kelly Shannon, director of Campus Recreation and Fitness, campus recreation is looking into doing a pre-arrival program in August for SOAR. No specific date has yet been confirmed. SOAR is an optional pre-arrival program that brings incoming students to camp at Eagle Lake Outpost for three days and two nights. Each session typically takes place directly after the corresponding orientation session.
As for the Student Transition Program, the corresponding page of UMW’s website states that there are tentative plans to have the STP summer experience August 14 through August 18. These plans exist under the assumption that there will be a return to normalcy before the start of the fall semester. With these new dates, participating students will have the opportunity to settle into their residence halls earlier than other incoming students, while still participating in the activities that STP has to offer. This includes a five-week summer residential, specialized summer, fall and spring success courses, academic advising, and career development.
While these cancellations will impact the experience of incoming students and students who planned to live on campus over the summer, the University is attempting to continue to offer opportunities and smooth the transition for students into the fall.