While success in the classroom is a top priority, campus life is an integral part of the college experience. Going to football games or club meetings, attending parties, making new friends … all vital to the college experience.
In the midst of a pandemic, the fall sports season at William & Mary has been postponed, and large gatherings violate campus health protocols. Face coverings are mandatory in public spaces, and six feet of separation has become social etiquette.
That doesn’t mean fun activities must be thrown out the window.
“People get involved because they want a sense of belonging at William & Mary,” said Anne Arseneau, director of student leadership development. “That really starts with small groups of people connecting and building relationships. There is no ban on human connection at William & Mary.”
The Student Assembly will be gathering information from student organizations and departments across campus to provide the community with a curated list of fun, physically distant activities, Arseneau said. This list will be available online and updated regularly.
“I think we’ll see a tremendous increase in activities once the upperclass students are back on campus,” Arseneau said. “They really help move things forward.”
Upperclass students are set to return this weekend.
Campus life will be among the planned topics for this week’s “Community Conversation with President Rowe,” which will focus on new opportunities offered by the university to enhance the student experience. It is scheduled to stream live Wednesday at noon.
Lauren Garrett, director of First Year Experience, encourages students — new students in particular — to explore their surroundings.
“Every Saturday morning, there’s the farmer’s market down on Duke of Gloucester Street,” she said. “Even if you’re not into the farmer’s market, it’s a way to get you up and moving in the morning and a way to become engaged with the Williamsburg area.
“There are a number of eateries in the area that you can grab a cup of coffee at or just sit at one of the tables on DoG Street and people watch. The bookstore has its café on the second floor that is a good study spot and has been de-densified following William & Mary protocol. That’s an untapped gem.”
Garrett encourages students to keep up with the TribeLink event calendar, on which clubs and organizations generally post their activities. One entry is titled “Answering the question: What CAN we do?” It is designed to help students and organizations navigate through these pandemic times.
The W&M event calendar includes virtual classes in yoga, meditation and art therapy as well as in-person strength training (with masks and 10 feet of separation).
Also important is physical activity. That’s where Campus Recreation comes in.
Intramural sports will compete in activities like singles tennis, sand volleyball, disc golf, and ping-pong. Flag football and basketball are on hold, but there will be competition in punt, pass and kick and 3-point shooting.
There’s also the Tribe Adventure Program. Normally, there are two or three trips every weekend for canoeing, kayaking, rock climbing, etc. That cannot happen under current conditions, but TAP has scheduled weekend events at Lake Matoaka.
“Every Friday night, we’re going to have a campfire that we’ve gotten approved,” said Linda Knight, the director of Campus Recreation. “Students can get to know each other and talk, and we can still social distance and wear masks.
“Saturday evening, we’ll do the same thing, but we’re going to stay out overnight. They can either be in a tent by themselves or in a hammock with bug netting, if they want to sleep outside. And we’ll have one of our trip leaders there.”
Fitness and wellness will conduct virtual classes, but also in-person activities at The Martha Wren Briggs Amphitheatre at Lake Matoaka. Also planned are in-person classes on gym courts with 10 feet of separation.
At the Bee McLeod Recreation Center, equipment has been placed 10 feet apart. Students are required to register for a certain time and wear a mask. The center is open 90-minute intervals with 30-minute cleanings in between.
Student Unions & Engagement will continue its efforts to help with events and activities. Brad Ward, assistant director of programming, said the majority would be virtual.
“You see virtual, and you think it’s not going to be the same experience,” he said. “While that’s true, it’s still really cool. A lot of these businesses and students we work with are thinking of creative ways to entertain everyone.
“It can be a little different, but I think it’s still a really cool opportunity for people. It doesn’t require you to leave your residence hall or be on campus, so you can still join and feel like you’re being a part of the campus even if you decide to stay home for the semester.”
There will be a few in-person events. On the evening of Aug. 21, a week after first-year students arrived, a small concert was held on the Sadler Center terrace.
“People were really respectful of wearing masks, and we had a lot of signs up telling people we could only have a 50-person capacity,” Ward said. “We had to turn people away, which was unfortunate, but that’s where we are right now. We can’t have a lot of people at outdoor events.
“The event was a positive. It let us know that as long as we provide a lot of guidelines and they are respectful of the rules, we can do outdoor events and hopefully do them really well and keep people safe.”
That’s the balance — helping the students enjoy their time at W&M while following safety guidelines.“You’re coming to campus, and you want a good experience,” Ward said. “It’s just a different time right now. Getting people that experience the best way we can and the safest way we can is really what we’re looking for.”