What is it like for Students Residing at Scripps During the Coronavirus Pandemic?


Julia Cox ’23
May 13, 2020

For the 14 students currently living on Scripps’ campus, the last two weeks have been a time of great adjustment. After a Scripps student on campus was diagnosed with Covid-19 on April 30, students have had to adjust to much stricter isolation procedures than before.

Before this diagnosis, quarantine had been fairly lenient. All on-campus students shared a 15-minute time period during which they could pick up their food for the day. They were encouraged to avoid interaction, but contamination was inevitable considering shared spaces, such as the kitchen, were not professionally cleaned, and students used the same keypad to enter the building.

“The way the living situation has been set up is so bad,” an anonymous student said. Though students occupied their individual rooms and bathrooms and were expected to enforce social distancing, the lack of sanitization in shared spaces made any efforts to avoid contamination seem futile.

On April 30 around 4pm, an ambulance arrived at Kimberly Hall where students were living. Students were told to remain in their rooms but were not informed of why medical personnel had arrived. An anonymous student said she worried a student had committed suicide, and she nor any other students were informed that a student had been diagnosed with Covid-19 until a Zoom meeting at 9pm that night.

“People were very upset,” Amanda Martinez ’20 said. “You could hear cries of frustration, people slamming on the walls, etc. [that evening].”

Students shared concerns about the Scripps administration’s precautions prior to the student’s diagnosis. According to India Whatley ’20, although she and several other students requested medical supplies such as gloves, face masks, and thermometers, all they received was a bandana until the student was diagnosed. After that, the 13 remaining students immediately each received a box of gloves and 10 face masks.

“It felt like there was very little prevention.” Whatley said.

“Out of an abundance of caution, students were provided additional masks, disposable thermometers allowing them to check their temperature each day, disposable gloves, and additional cleaning supplies” said Dean Johnson in a statement on May 12 about precautions taken after the student’s diagnosis. “Prior to the diagnosis, all students on campus were provided a cloth mask, disposable thermometers, and cleaning supplies, all of which met CDC guidelines… following the diagnosis, all common areas were professionally disinfected, even though the diagnosed student had not used these areas.”

Another new precaution implemented after the student’s diagnosis is the introduction of strict individualized schedules to enforce distancing from one another. Each week, students have one assigned 15-minute time period to dispose of their trash, one three-hour time period to provide laundry for maintenance staff to wash, and two daily 15-minute time periods to use the kitchen.

The restriction seeming to cause the greatest disturbance among students is the scheduled food pick-up time, which is once daily for 15 minutes.

“My pickup time is 12:35,” Martinez said. “It’s hard when you have to be awake and in class before the food drop. I sit there really hungry, or just sleep in and skip class to ignore the hunger.” Students are given their boxed lunch and dinner for the day during their assigned pickup period in addition to “a trash bag full of water, Gatorade in a can, and snacks” once a week, according to an anonymous student.

Students have reported additional issues with vegan food in particular, saying that food marked as vegan is not always so.

“The vegans are upset because it’s just straight tofu every day, or Malott will give them something labelled vegan and it’s actually not,” Martinez said. In addition, as students are in complete quarantine, food delivery services such as Postmates or Uber Eats are prohibited for student use. Martinez has reported requesting the deans for extra groceries, but the request was ignored.

“It can ruin your day; food is a basic necessity and every day I get anxiety over whether or not Malott has given me enough for the day,” Martinez said.

Students have cited additional frustrating experiences, such as communication issues with administrators and a lack of time outdoors.

Forest Balemian-Spencer ’20 described a particularly stressful situation with Student Health Services (SHS). According to Balemian-Spencer, students had been having regular check-ins with SHS and during one of these meetings she “told them [SHS] that my chest was feeling a little bit tight and I was coughing a little bit.” Balemian-Spencer has asthma but brought up these troubles again at the next meeting to err on the side of caution. She was subsequently tested for Covid-19 and got negative results, but SHS requested that she move locations anyway. Around 9pm on May 7, Balemian-Spencer was told she needed to be moved out of her current room by 7am on May 8, the next day. She moved successfully to the new location but expressed frustration at being given a 10-hour notice to move when it had been demonstrated that she didn’t have Covid-19.

Other students have voiced unease about rules prohibiting them from going outside. Before the student was diagnosed with Covid-19, students were allowed to go on walks or runs on their own, but since the diagnosis they have not been allowed to leave Kimberly except to throw away their garbage or pick up their meals during assigned times. Martinez expressed frustration at not being able to exercise and stated that she and others had to “beg” the deans to be allowed to sit alone in the Kimberly courtyard.

Additionally, Whatley described the installation of towers with security cameras that capture large areas of Scripps’ campus as a result of enforcing regulations closing the campus to the public because of the pandemic. However, students have reported seeing members of the public walking around to no consequence despite restrictions by Scripps.

“They’d rather lock us up than really protect us, and it offends me that while we’re locked up in Kimberly, middle class white families are still getting to illegally enjoy the campus,” Martinez said. “The power dynamics are just awful between us and the deans.”

However, despite the varying complaints, the largest frustration seems to stem from the methods of the deans to address the situation.

“I feel abandoned by Scripps,” Whatley said. “Even from the beginning it feels like we’re always being reminded that we’re a liability instead of being cared for.”

Moreover, the deans’ response to the student’s diagnosis with Covid-19 was not well-received. “They were so incompetent,” an anonymous student said. “I had been giving them the benefit of the doubt… but they have not been thinking.”

However, some students recognize the efforts being made to alleviate their situation, though they may not always be effective. “I feel like emotionally [the deans] care, but there’s this obsession with protocol and this obsession with performance that prevents seeing clearly and being effective, even when people’s lives are at stake,” added the same anonymous student.

Though there seems to be a disconnect between the deans in charge and the students living at Scripps, hopefully there will be more communication in the days prior to students being required to exit Scripps campus on May 16.

Image Credit: Flickr

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