As I sit here typing this, I’m in my dorm room. But the building no longer feels like a dorm. COVID-19 has turned it into a ghost town.
I’m a Viking Adviser, or VA, on the southside of campus, and both Bergsaker and Solberg usually have this specific energy surrounding them. They’re filled with residents that bring laughter, positivity, ambition, dedication and, of course, a little bit of mischief.
Most residents are gone, forced to move out to limit the number of students on campus. I was not required to stay, and all VAs will be given their full stipends regardless. I chose to stay — to serve the few that are left.
However, part of choosing to stay on staff also means a move across campus. Currently, the students that remain are scattered throughout the six residence halls, and the VAs have continued to perform their on-call duties and supervise resident needs.
The residents of those six residence halls, though, will soon be condensed down to three as students living in Bergsaker, Solberg and East are required to move to new rooms in either Stavig or Granskou. For now, Tuve residents will remain in Tuve. This requirement comes with a number of rationales from Campus Life such as concentrating custodial efforts and limiting the number of residents on each floor.
According to Campus Life, there will be no more than six students on each floor even though the Southside currently averages about one to two students per floor.
Additionally, Campus Life wants to create better rotations for on-call availability and responses. However, since the vast majority of residents have moved off-campus, the average number of calls that we receive on the on-call phone has dropped to almost zero per night, at least on the Southside, so response time isn’t really an issue.
I want to continue my role of helping the remaining students get through this transitional time that’s even weirder than freshman year. So, I will be spending my Easter weekend packing up all of my belongings and moving them across campus for what remains of spring semester which, by the time we’re required to be in our new rooms, is less than six weeks.
COVID-19 has already stolen so much. It has stolen the remainder of my senior year, my graduation, my ability to recognize all my ‘lasts’ and the opportunity to say goodbye to my residents. I had no idea, though, that it would take away Bergsaker, which has been my home for the entirety of my time at Augie.
At the end of the day, I don’t care which residence hall I live in, because I know I’m still lucky enough to be on campus doing a job I love, even though it’s eerily empty and not the Augie I know and love.
What I do care about, is what my job now means and how it has changed, because without the residents, I’m just not a VA.
I became a VA simply because I wanted to help first-year students. I didn’t do it for any of the financial perks because frankly, they’re not enough to compensate for the amount of hours VAs put into the job.
I did it to help get freshmen through a year of transition and, often, challenges. I thought that I could shape their first year of college into one that was peaceful, meaningful and relatively painless.
I had no idea how much my residents would change me. They have made me a better student, leader and person, and now that they’re not here, I feel a little lost.
I miss my residents.
I never thought I would say this, but I’m wishing for one more crazy on-call weekend because I know I’ll never get that again. The silence here is deafening. Usually, I would embrace the silence with open arms, but now I miss the random screams, the echoing footsteps, the explosive laughter, the constant click of the lock on the doors.
I miss seeing residents in the halls and getting to interact with them, even if it’s just a few quick sentences about how their day is going. I miss the random duties that it’s easy to find annoying — fetching the ancient vacuum, unlocking a door, filling out a maintenance request. Right now, I wish I had someone knocking on my door asking for one of those things. I’d happily embrace it instead of internally rolling my eyes.
I miss the energy that only dorm residents can bring to a building. It’s infectious, whether it’s positive or negative. I even miss feeling the suffocating stress in the air during finals or midterms. I miss hearing laughter down the halls that would usually keep me awake at night.
Residents bring a purpose to my job. Not having them makes me realize how much I value them, even if I do occasionally have to clean up their vomit or deal with a fire alarm after they burn a pizza.
This whole coronavirus situation has thrown everything into a state of uncertainty. Right now, we’re all living one day at a time because we have no other choice. It’s hard for all of us, that much I know.
That, however, does not take away all of the experiences I have had. Most importantly, it doesn’t take away the relationships I have built.
While this school year is ending so far from how I had hoped, I hope that not just my residents — but all students — realize what many of my professors have already put into words: Augustana is not Augustana without you.
No matter what happens in the upcoming weeks, I will always be grateful to have been a VA here at Augie.
For more of Keeley’s thoughts on being a VA, visit her blog.