The Home We Love So Well: Stories from Home Series
Tending to the Nest
Ask any student what he or she loves most about Huntingdon, and the majority (including commuters) will respond that the College “feels like home.” The sentiment isn’t new or unique among current students or alumni. When Blanche Loveridge, who served as dean of Woman’s College of Alabama (Huntingdon’s third identity) from 1914 to 1916, penned the alma mater in 1914, the song included the heartfelt description, “the home we love so well.” The song and the sentiment endure.
A favorite library study nook; a swing, blanket, or walk across the bridge on the Green; a spot on a field or court or in the bleachers or tent as a spectator; a favorite table in the DH; a residence hall room; anywhere on campus among friends … these are all special spots students have cited as evoking for them that feeling of a second home on campus. So when the College had to stop in-person classes and send residents to their home-homes this spring, every student was left understandably saddened and missing his or her second home—especially the 530 students who began the spring semester living in Huntingdon residences.
When Huntingdon announced an extended spring break beginning March 16, there were 15 students who couldn’t go home because of continuing commitments in internships or work in Montgomery. These students were allowed to remain on campus with ARAMARK Dining Services providing carry-out meals and Student Health Services monitoring their health. Staci-Jo Palek, director of residential communities, picked up meals and stored them for students who were unable to be at the DH when meals were ready.
As COVID-19 spread rampantly throughout the world and ever-closer to Alabama, Huntingdon administrators determined the residence halls would have to close and classes would move online for the remainder of the semester. Between Wednesday and Sunday of the week originally planned for spring break, March 22–28, about 350 residents moved out of Huntingdon residences. The Office of Residence Life and the Office of Student Affairs worked round-the-clock and through the weekend to achieve move-outs and social distancing simultaneously, allowing only one student and an accompanying family member per floor during each two-hour block of time. Today, all but 30 students have removed their belongings.
“We had ‘all hands on deck ‘—not just residence directors and assistant residence directors, but our entire staff,” says vice president for student affairs and dean of students Fran Taylor. “I never heard a single complaint or grumble from staff [even though they were] working more, harder, and longer to accommodate and assist our students.”
Normally, students are expected to clean their rooms thoroughly and to restore their beds to bunked positioning before checking out, but this year Student Affairs and housekeeping staff are taking care of those details. “Student Affairs staff were heroic amid this crisis.” says Anthony Leigh, senior vice president for student and institutional development. “Staff went to great measures to have dumpsters brought to campus to facilitate the removal of trash and unwanted items so that housekeeping staff were not swamped with these items when they returned to campus.”
The move-outs went smoothly. “We were overwhelmed with the positivity of students and parents alike,” says Dean Taylor. “We had comments such as ‘We are so grateful for all that HC is doing to assist us.’ On a funny note, most parents commented on the vast amount of belongings their students had acquired—remarking that they had not moved-in that much [stuff] during the fall!”
“HC Res Life was awesome!” says Chris Mayer ’23, of Bennington, Vt. “They allowed me to come back to campus a few days early to clean my room and finish packing. I was nervous for a few reasons about my trip back home. I have to drive through most of New York, the epicenter of the pandemic, and the State Department of Transportation told me they’d be closing roads and not allowing out-of-staters in the following day, so Res Life allowed me to come in, pack up and leave early enough to make it home in time before New York and Vermont closed to interstate travel. If they weren’t so accommodating and helpful, I would either not be home right now or I would not have my materials and things from my room.”
Unlike some colleges, Huntingdon refunded the unused portion of room and board for residential students. Students billed at the double room rate received room, board and tax credits totaling $1534.84; students billed at the single room rate received room, board and tax credits totaling $2157.52. In addition, late fees for payment plan installments were waived during March and April.
Eight students are still living in Huntingdon housing for the rest of the semester—all in properties that have kitchens so that they can provide their own meals. So far there are no known cases of COVID-19 among students or staff on campus.
This week returning Hawks will begin choosing where they’d like to nest for the 2020–2021 academic year. Students will have more choices for residences than ever before, thanks to a number of new off-campus properties that were purchased and renovated during the past year. The sign-up process, like everything else, is different this spring because of COVID-19. Current and rising seniors may submit their requests online today, April 20, beginning at 11:30 a.m.; rising juniors, tomorrow (4/21) beginning at 11:30 a.m.; rising sophomores, Wednesday (4/22), beginning at 11:30 a.m.; and any returning student Thursday, April 23, beginning at 11:30 a.m. Only students who have registered for fall term classes will be eligible for room assignments.
Just like Dorothy says as she clicks her ruby slippers, “There’s no place like home.” Both Anthony Leigh and Dean Fran Taylor echo those words, saying, “We can’t wait to welcome students back home in the fall.”
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