News / Student Life

Hunter Reopens Brookdale Dorm, But at Price of Student Interaction

An empty common room at the Brookdale dorms.

Wearing a mask and carrying just a few essential belongings, Elizabeth Jankovic wheeled her blue moving cart into the Brookdale Dorms, returning for the first time since COVID-19 effectively shut down the residence hall. As she pushed her cart through the halls of the dorm she passed signs imploring students to wash their hands, maintain their distance from one another, and wear protective masks at all times, as part of Hunter College’s initiative to prevent the spread of COVID19. 

Hunter College reopened the Brookdale Campus Residence Hall to students, with extra protocols in place to protect both residents and staff from COVID-19. Over the course of move in and the first few days, students came to know a very different Brookdale from the one they left in March. A safer, potentially more isolating dorm, that students are happy to be returning to. This comes after a summer of uncertainty from administrators and students alike due to safety concerns. 

A fully-stocked hand sanitizing station at the dorm.
A fully-stocked hand sanitizing station at the dorm.

“I’m super happy I got to move in,” says Jankovic, a senior who has lived at Brookdale for the past three years. “When I moved in I said I was so excited to be back and one of the people at the check-in table looked at me with shocked eyes and an open mouth and asked me to explain why I was excited.” She says the dorms offer her a peaceful place to work amongst other students, something she missed while quarantining with family. 

Jankovic was one of many students unsure of what their housing would look like come fall semester. Emails announcing the opening of the dorm began circulating on August 24, just two days before the start of the fall semester. According to the Hunter College website, the announcement comes after more than 400 Hunter students inquired about housing options for the fall. Students have been moving in, spread out over the course of September to a dorm enforcing all of the protocols recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Resident Life developed the protocols in accordance with the guidelines and recommendations from the CDC and the New York State Department of Health to prevent the spread of the disease among residents. According to Hunter’s “Focus on Fall” plan, students are required to wear masks around the building and asked to maintain at least 6 feet from other residents. No meetings or community gatherings are allowed to take place on the premises; any official meetings for staff or students will take place virtually. Additionally, no nonresidents are allowed on campus. 

Jankovic, who moved in on September 15, says the protocols have been a bit of an adjustment to make. Wearing masks in the dorms when not in a room, is “definitely a habit I have to get used to because I’m so used to this being my home for the past three years,” says the Journalism major.

One of many new signs that dot the halls of Brookdale.
One of many new signs that dot the halls of Brookdale.

In addition to required mask wearing around the dorms, students have to follow special protocols regarding common areas and interactions with other students. Once a place for students to congregate, study, or share a meal, areas like the lounges and kitchens on each floor have a maximum capacity of two people at a time, and students are not allowed to visit floors other than their own. The communal couches that have been a staple in the lounges have been taken away to prevent close contact between students, leaving just two tables and two chairs. The bathrooms also have a maximum occupancy of two people at a time, with plexiglass separating sinks to allow for distancing and signs posted by all of the doors reminding students to follow these new rules. In order to enter the building, students must present their Hunter ID and a specially laminated proof of residency card. They must also complete a brief survey on the Everbridge app about their travel habits and symptoms they may be displaying anytime they wish to enter the building. 

While security guards are vigilant about students entering the building, Jankovic says she has yet to see security or residence life enforcing these protocols on each floor. Living at Hunter did not respond to requests for comment.

Rafael Gutiereze, Hunter student and Residence Life Commissioner
Rafael Garcia, Hunter student and Residence Life Commissioner.

With all of these protections in place, Rafael Garcia, Hunter student and Residence Life Commissioner says he feels good about the new protocols and being back at the dorms. “Brookdale’s response has been the best that it could be,” he said in a Zoom interview. “The idea of Brookdale is to create a safe and productive living space for its students without infringing too much on their personal space and privacy.” 

Garcia, who is responsible for running Brookdale’s gameroom and handling Undergraduate Student Government matters at the dorm, works with administration to find a healthy balance between safety and productive student life. For example, students are encouraged to attend online classes in the building’s courtyard while the weather is still nice. “The WIFI is a little shaky, not gonna lie, but it’s doable and it’s nice and peaceful with the outdoor breeze,” Garcia said.

While students are happy to be back, there is a noticeable difference in the mood around the dorms. Jankovic says the biggest difference for her is how quiet the dorms are, now that people cannot socialize in their rooms or the halls. The signature floor decorations of years past are absent, a change Garcia says students have missed. 

An empty hall at Brookdale.
An empty hall at Brookdale.

Regardless, he says it’s still the Brookdale residents love; people are excited to be back and optimistic about the protections in place. “It’s a way to experience college, even if it’s not to its fullest extent, it’s something,” says Garcia with a smile.

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