University officials discuss rooks, food and more in Feb. 5 town hall

Fast-evolving pandemic protocols have raised a plethora of student questions. Last week, university officials worked to answer them.

In a student town hall on Friday, President Mark Anarumo, Senior Vice President of Student Affairs and Technology Frank Vanecek, Corps of Cadets Commandant Col. Michael Titus and Amelia “Millie” Heidenreich, general manager of food contractor Sodexo at Norwich University, answered wide-ranging queries at a virtual town hall.

On Saturday, Titus and student Regimental Commander Caleb Miller posted a second video to explain recognition for rooks, first-year recruits for the Corps.

“You’ve done your part. … This is nobody’s fault.” Norwich University President Mark C. Anarumo

Anarumo preceded the answers by praising the students for their willingness to follow health protocols and persevering spirit.

“All of you (are) doing beautifully; you’re doing everything that’s asked of you in very difficult circumstances, so I’m very grateful for all of you,” Anarumo said. “I understand it’s been hard.”

Some students have asked whether they could leave campus to study remotely for the semester’s balance and Anarumo said they surely could, free of guilt or fear of stigmatization. They needed only to alert Residential Life or Commandant’s Office staff of their departure plans and coordinate with their academic advisor.

Students who leave will get a prorated refund on room and board based on their departure dates.

“You’ve done your part … this whole ‘I will try’ motto you’ve all tried,” Anarumo said. “This is nobody’s fault. We had a large number of people show up with the virus that didn’t know they had it and then we had a spread based upon that reception.”

He said in-person instruction had been postponed until Feb. 16. The modified in-room quarantine, in which students stay mostly in their rooms and venture out only with roommates, will continue until COVID-19 cases can be reduced.

Gauging prevalence

He said there’s no “magic number” of cases that will trigger a campus shutdown for the rest of the semester; any such decision will depend on COVID-19 prevalence and will be made after consulting with university and Vermont health officials.

As long as the campus maintains the space to isolate 5% of the population, per state mandate, Gov. Phil Scott will let the campus stay open, he said. Crawford Hall has been set aside for these isolated quarantines.

anarumo student town hall 2 5 21
Norwich University President Mark C. Anarumo speaks to students during the Feb. 5, 2021, virtual student town hall. (Screenshot from video.)

To relieve pressure on students who do stay, Anarumo said Vanecek and the Campus Activities Board and Residential Life staffs are creating activities and working to enable COVID-19-negative students to have one hot sit-down meal in the Wise Campus Center dining hall every day. To let students exercise beyond the Plumley Armory fitness center, some gym equipment was moved to the CoLab building, he added. Shaw Outdoor Center’s Paine Mountain trails are open for hikes by roommate pairs, he said.

Anarumo said athletics remain on hold, although the university is working to arrange games if health protocols are met. The university so far plans to have in-person Commencement and Commissioning — speakers are arranged — but only if they can happen safely.

These events’ shape and structure are so far uncertain. Seniors who leave campus to study remotely will be welcomed back to campus for these rites, he said.

See the video of the Feb. 5 student affairs town hall here. Click here for an aggregation of frequently asked student affairs questions.

The next student town hall will run from 3 to 4 p.m. Thursday. Click here for details.

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