Towson University has implemented multiple layers of precautions as students return for fall semester.
Students and vibrant campus life are part of what makes Towson University special.
Because of COVID-19, the Towson University campus has spent the past five months mostly empty. But starting on August 13, TU started welcoming back small groups of students as part of student move-in for the fall 2020 academic term.
Over the weekend, TU helped over 800 students move onto campus, with about 2,200 more expected to join them in residence halls this week.
President Kim Schatzel was among those on campus to welcome back students and their families during Day 1 of move-in on Thursday. Many students were able to get a physically distant hello from behind her Towson University branded mask.
And while the mask covered her face, she wanted to reassure everyone that she was smiling all day.
“Move-in has always been one of my favorite days of the academic year,” President Schatzel says. “To be able to have the students and welcome them back and welcome their families to campus, it’s just a great day.”
Safety has been the theme for move-in, with staff and students staying socially distant throughout the move-in process. To help students have time and space to move their belongings onto campus, move-in has been extended from a single weekend to 10 days — starting on August 13 and lasting until August 23, with check-in happening inside SECU Arena.
Students received their room assignment, residence hall key, OneCard, and Tigers Care package (which featured hand sanitizer, a face mask, digital thermometer and other items to help students stay safe during the pandemic).
Before coming to campus, students needed to have a negative COVID-19 PCR test within 10 days before their scheduled arrival. On Thursday, that was the first question many of the students had to answer.
Freshmen and incoming students were also given special orientation swag that they couldn’t get over the summer, because orientation had moved to a completely virtual platform.
New signage could be seen throughout the residence halls to help direct traffic. Students had two-hour time blocks to move into their residence halls and, to help maintain minimal density, no more than eight students were allowed in the building per time block.
Residence hall front desks were equipped with plexiglass, and the carts used for move-in were sanitized after each use. Tigers Care sanitizing stations — with cleaning wipes and jugs of hand sanitizer — were located near every door on campus.
Vernon Hurte, Vice President of Student Affairs, is experiencing his first move-in at Towson University. As he walked around campus and met with students, he couldn’t help but feel proud of the work being done by staff to keep students safe.
“I believe with every challenge comes great opportunities,” Hurte says. “I’m so proud of our team across campus who have really risen to the occasion. As we’ve centered on health and wellness, we really used our creative juices to create some great opportunity for our students, and we’re excited for the semester ahead.”
Sophomore psychology major Sanaya Clark was one of the first students to move in on August 13. One of the reasons she signed up for an early shift was because she has been missing the campus atmosphere.
And while there were initially nerves about coming back to campus, Clark says she’s felt more comfortable seeing all the changes on campus to help keep students safe.
“I feel really safe being back on campus and knowing that there are precautions that are being taken,” Clark says. “I’m excited just to be back on campus. I’ve been home for so long. And, honestly, I’m just ready to be back and be in the atmosphere on campus."
Clark wasn’t the only one excited to be back on campus. The consensus for many students on Thursday morning was that they were ready to return to TU.
Sophomore O’Neil George, a computer science major from Prince George's County, was excited to be back on campus after spending the summer welcoming new students through Zoom as an orientation leader.
He hopes that being back on campus will bring back some sort of normalcy.
“This is a step in the right direction,” George says. “I think TU is doing a good job with safety measures they have in place. I’m excited to be back.”
Most summers, New Student and Family Programs welcome hundreds of students each day to campus for orientation. But this year, the first time they actually get to interact with students face-to-face will be during move-in.
“It’s exciting to see all the pieces come back together,” says Katie Murray, director of New Student and Family Programs. “We ordered all our materials before COVID-19 happened, so we’re excited to give students their orientation swag and see them put all of the pieces of the puzzle together that we gave them this summer.”
Patrick O’Toole was one of TU’s newest Tigers going through his first move-in. His dad, Peter, was also going through his first TU move-in and described helping his son prepare for college as bittersweet.
“There are mixed emotions, because I’m happy for Patrick but we’re really going to miss him,” says Peter O’Toole. “It’s a big day for him. I’m telling him to make small mistakes and learn from them. That’s the best advice I can give him for this experience.”
After receiving their keys and care packages, students were able to get moved into their residence halls quickly. They also were able to meet members of the Housing and Residence Life team, as well as their building’s resident assistants (RAs).
Many of the RAs have been on campus for several days, and are actually going through their annual training. Luckily, they were able to take small breaks and meet their new residents.
Senior Ryan Gordon, an RA in the Residences at 10 West Burke Avenue, said while he hasn’t been able to help with the move-in process much, he’s ready with advice for his students.
“I’m telling students to not be scared to be vulnerable and step out of your comfort zone,” Gordon says. “Put yourself out there, because I know my freshman year, I had to be vulnerable and step out of that comfort zone that I had. Experience everything that you can and take advantage of what TU has to offer.”
Classes, both in-person and online, will start on August 24. Before that will be 10 days of Welcome 2 TU events, such as the socially distant silent disco, a virtual murder mystery and a virtual open mic.
Students can download the Towson University Guidebook app on their smartphone for a complete schedule of events.
As students to continue to trickle onto campus, the TU community is encouraged to follow COVID-19 protocols to help maintain the safe atmosphere established over the past few months.
“It’s just wonderful that we’ve even had the opportunity to do this,” Schatzel says. “We’ve all prepared to have everyone back on campus safely, the students and their families have been educated in what we need to do. We’re ready to go.”
This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland.