Pralle-Sodaro Hall, like all other freshman dorms, has been empty all fall but is set to reopen in Spring 2021.

It will be move-in day for the freshmen. Only six months late.

Six months into freshman year without living in the dorms. Without meeting new friends in the lounges. Without eating meals at the caf. Without having to deal with that annoying roommate.

These are experiences nearly every first year student has had while living in the freshman dorms. Rights of passage some might call them. And this is the first year that freshmen haven’t had these pleasures, as the residence halls and dining hall have been closed due to COVID-19.

“They’ve definitely been missing out,” said Sayler Walls, a sophomore creative producing major who lived in Pralle-Sodaro Hall last year as a freshman. She added:

“If I didn’t live in the dorms I wouldn’t have met as many people, or become as close of friends with the random people I would bump into on the way back to my dorm.” 

You won’t see this during the pandemic.
Front row, from left: Sayler Walls, Hailey Reichman
Back row, from left: Elizabeth Murphy, Liv Haley.

But soon, everything may be changing for this year’s freshman.

Subject to pandemic changes, the university has announced that freshmen have the option to move into the residence halls for the Spring 2021 semester. The plan was to further accommodate students who choose to return for in-person classes, but as online classes are likely to continue into the spring, students will have to wait for further updates on any changes.

Which resident halls will be opening will depend on the demand received. The buildings without suited bathrooms will be used first to distance the students. In one week, almost 300 current first-year students had begun the process of applying for spring housing.

However, it still won’t be the same experience previous students have had. 

Common spaces are likely to stay empty even after the dorms reopen.

No roommates. No common spaces – at least not any without significantly reduced occupancy. And most interactions and gatherings with other students will still happen virtually.

Move-in is scheduled to take place the week of January 25 over a few days before Spring Orientation. The deadline to complete the housing application was December 1.

But just because the freshman year experience is different, does not mean that the freshman experience has been ruined.

“Now that the majority of the students are commuting, it has deeply changed what it means to have that typical “first year” at a university,” said Jordan Vaughn, Program Coordinator of Residence Life and First Year Experience.

“I have seen numerous students prior to the pandemic create a successful first year for themselves as commuter students,” said Vaughn.

Freshmen have currently been residing at home or in second year housing options such as Chapman Grand, the K, and Panther Village. Sophomores were allowed to move off campus this year in order to make more space for the freshmen. 

Freshmen are the second group of students to be prioritized housing after graduating seniors. Reslife recognizes the necessity to assist the first year students in making connections with each other and with the campus. 

If students are content with where they are living, and do not want to move, then they do not need to take any action. Reslife will extend their current assignment through May 22, 2021.

Students living in the residence halls will need to follow the guidelines about quarantine and isolation. Student Health Services would indicate that a resident needs to be in isolation, either due to a positive COVID test or a likely positive based on the resident’s symptoms.

If in isolation, residents cannot leave their apartment unless they are being treated for their symptoms. They also cannot have any guests or go in common areas until they are cleared by Student Health Services staff. 

Failure to comply with these isolation guidelines could lead to a referral to Student Conduct.

All students who have been exposed to COVID-19 and have a chance of having it must also follow guidelines.

Even if a resident receives a negative test result, they are still required to complete the 14-day quarantine period if they have been exposed, and should not return to regular activities until explicitly cleared by Student Health Services.

Despite these new guidelines, the school has been eager to get the freshmen into the dorms.

The university typically encourages first year students to live on campus, as students who live in first year communities have a stronger connection to the university, are more successful in their classes, have higher graduation rates, a higher grade point average, and report a higher level of satisfaction with their university experience.

With the pandemic and this being our first class to experience a majority commuting student population, time will tell how this may impact the class overall as they continue on their journey at Chapman,” said Vaughn.

Many still see the value of this year’s freshmen getting the dorm experience.

“Living in the dorms was crucial to my first year experience. Being surrounded 24/7 by people my own age pushed me to try so many new things and meet so many different kinds of people,” said Carter Kane, a public relations and advertising major who lived in Pralle-Sodaro with Walls last year.

“I entered the dorm experience completely different than when we left in March,” said Kane.

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