The COVID-19 pandemic has caused Fairfield University to put strict guidelines on all types of events being held across campus to ensure the safety of their students and faculty.
Events hosted by Resident Assistants in residential halls across campus have been no exception to these guidelines and have been greatly affected by the safety measures.
Senior Sana Malik is serving her second year as a Resident Assistant and has witnessed the impact of the pandemic on RA-hosted programs firsthand.
Malik is currently an RA for first-year residents in Campion Hall. Having served as an RA for first years in Gonzaga Hall last year, she has noticed a tremendous difference in program attendance post-COVID compared to before the pandemic.
Malik described how providing residents with food during programs was one way she used to boost her attendance.
“Last year we were allowed to order food and give it out at events,” Malik said. “This year we are not allowed to give out food at all, even if it is prepackaged.”
Along with food, in-person interactive activities were another way Malik attracted residents to programs in the past. She described hosting a Cultural Night last year in which she taught residents how to apply Henna and allowed them to try Brazilian and Indian food. This was one of her most attended events.
With the new pandemic directives, Malik has tried to modify past programs in a way that allows everyone to remain safe, but has not been able to draw the same attendance.
“I hosted makeup and skincare programs last year which both had good turnouts,” Malik stated. “I tried to host similar events over Zoom this year and no one came.”
Senior Wiktoria Krzak, a Senior Resident Assistant for sophomores in Claver, has also turned to Zoom for hosting programs.
“RAs have tried their best to put on great programs while also abiding by the COVID directives,” Krzak said. “The safest way would be to put on a Zoom program.”
These pandemic directives mentioned by Malik and Krzak include guidelines on topics such as social distancing measures, room capacities and what RAs are allowed to provide to residents.
Like Malik, Krzak has also seen a sharp decrease in the number of residents attending her programs this year.
“The one program I had that had the most people, which was three residents, was a Navigating Linkedin Zoom program,” Krzak explained. “It was to go through the basics of Linkedin and help residents start their profiles.”
Krzak connects this lack of attendance with the Zoom fatigue students are likely experiencing from attending virtual classes during the day.
Senior Brandon Alonso, an RA for upperclassmen living in Barnyard Manor, also mentioned Zoom fatigue when referencing his poor attendance to programs.
“Most of the residents do not want to spend their free time engaging with Zoom after spending most of their days on it,” Alonso said. “It also didn’t help that we weren’t allowed to give anything away due to protocols.”
Alonso was an RA for upperclassmen at 47 Mahan Road last year, and mentioned that attendance of junior and senior residents has always been low. However, since the beginning of the pandemic, it has decreased even more.
As a way of attracting residents to his programs, Alonso has tried to provide different incentives. “The big trend was virtual gift cards,” he described. “But even that at times wasn’t enough to encourage residents to attend.”
While attendance has been decreasingly low throughout the academic year, there is hope that with warmer weather more students will attend.
“I took residents to a sunset yoga class in the early fall,” Malik said. “I was able to get more people involved because it was outside.”
Malik is hoping to host more outdoor programs this spring as a way of increasing attendance. She plans to put together a tye-dying face mask program on the lawn outside Campion Hall in the upcoming weeks for her residents.