Residence teams remain on campus front lines

Special to Western News

The daughter of a Housing and Ancillary Services employee created some homemade inspirational notes for the staff who remain on campus taking care of the students in residence.

Editor’s note: Visit the official WesternCOVID-19 website for the latest campus updates.

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With classes moved online, and a majority of staff working from home, they are the face of the university for the students who remain on campus.

“Some of the hardest and most stressful jobs on campus right now are being performed by our front-line staff food service workers, caretakers, and front-desk clerks,” said Chris Alleyne, Associate Vice-President (Housing and Ancillary Services).

“They’ve exhibited incredible resilience in projecting calm to our students and shown care and a positive attitude in taking care of our campus community.”

Western residences and dining halls remain open to support the 2,200 students, many of whom are international, who cannot return home for numerous reasons – travel restrictions, health, personal circumstances or various obligations.

Despite the facilities remaining open until April 27, the original residence closure date, that doesn’t mean it is business as usual, Alleyne said.

Much of the food safety and preparation processes shifted in mid-January, a typical move during cold and flu season. Additional measures taken include moving to staff-served dining halls (rather than students serving themselves); more frequent cleaning of touch surfaces; elimination of open condiments (replacing with individual packets); and hand sanitizer at each entrance.

“We’ve recently adjusted the seating configurations in residence dining halls to maximize social distancing, and are packaging all pastries individually,” Alleyne added.

He believes a considerable number of students went home when in-person classes were canceled last week. Many of the students even left with things still in their bedrooms.

“Over the course of this week, many have been returning to pick up the remainder of their belongings,” Alleyne said.

For those students who remain on campus, the need to follow social-distancing protocols can create feelings of isolation and loneliness, Alleyne said. To help, Residence Life staff have put together a list of recommended wellness and learning programs, as well as virtual tours and online games.

Students are able to take part in online workouts, yoga, meditation, learn a new language and even virtually tour the Louvre or the San Diego Zoo.

“A number of our residence staff members, students themselves, have opted to remain in residence until the end of April to ensure our remaining students have supports and someone to speak with,” Alleyne said.

A number of parents have reached out to thank the staff for its work Western:

“Thank you so much for the thoughtful email at this surreal time when so many in our communities and around the world are working on contingency plans. Really appreciate your efforts with the students still in residence. We will ensure our son abides by the rules you’ve set out.”

“Thank you very much for your care and help to the children!”

A daughter of one staffer even created homemade inspirational notes for our staff with messages: ‘Life is tough, but so are you.’ ‘Hang in there.’ ‘You got this.’ ‘Today will be a good day.’

“It certainly brightened our day and made us smile – a very thoughtful and inspiring gesture,” Alleyne said.

Understanding the current situations may increase anxiety, Alleyne often tells the students to ‘take care of yourself, take care of each other and take care of this place.’

“Now, more than ever, there’s an understanding that we’re all in this together,” he stressed, pointing out that Residence Counselling is still working to listen and help our students, through in-person and telephone appointments.

Students can book appointments by emailing needtotalk@uwo.ca.