Neighbors surrounding AU navigate the return of students
AU students returning to campus excites some neighbors, sparks concern in others
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on theeaglecoronavirusproject.com, a separate website created by Eagle staff at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in spring 2020. Articles from that website have been migrated to The Eagle’s main site and backdated with the dates they were originally published in order to allow readers to access them more easily.
As American University students arrived on campus for the Mid-Semester Residential Experience, originally referred to as the “mini-mester,” in early March, community members surrounding the University had to readjust to living in a college town once again.
The two month residential program allows a limited number of undergraduate students to experience life on campus. Of the allotted about 1,250 spots provided for the program, approximately 549 students decided to participate in the MSRE.
“I'm glad that the University is taking some action to try and build a stronger community among students, especially right now with the pandemic, but I am worried that with the COVID[-19] outbreak that we've been seeing at universities across the District, especially at Georgetown, that we might see something similar at AU when [students] return to campus,” ANC Ward 3D07 commissioner Christian Damiana said.
Damiana, a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs, referred to rising case numbers at Georgetown University, where 279 positive tests were reported for Jan. 3 through Feb. 13.
As of March 8, AU has reported 77 total cases during the spring semester, 62 of which have been from off-campus students.
“The University needs to continue to make sure that they're being forthcoming with all of their COVID[-19] data, they've done a good job this semester, being very transparent, but that is something we want to keep seeing and making sure they're communicative,” Damiana said.
AU’s Assistant Vice President of Community and Government Relations Edward Fisher assured that the University worked with the D.C. Department of Health and the Office of Planning in creating plans for the MSRE.
Students living on campus will receive a PCR test twice a week and must follow guidelines put in place by the District.
“We have informed students that the student code of conduct still guides their actions when they're off campus, so we want to make sure that they abide by our code and our good neighbor guideline policy,” Fisher said.
The University informed the immediate neighbors and community of the MSRE in January through its neighborhood newsletter, according to Fisher.
Some neighbors welcomed the students participating in the MSRE, citing that it could ultimately benefit both parties.
“In my opinion, we need to take steps to return to normalcy. I don’t mind if students move into my neighborhood. I would hope that they follow COVID[-19] precautions and realize that while they are in a low risk group, many of their neighbors may not be,” said Dina Atwell, a resident of the Palisades neighborhood. “Hopefully more students moving in will help small businesses as well, as students are more apt to order take out and still patronize businesses in the area.”
AU Park resident Jenny Paul said she's seen students around her area since the fall, but hasn't felt worried.
"Everyone seems to be behaving pretty responsibly when we see them," Paul said. "I think especially with the vaccines rolling out that this is a good step for AU to be taking. [It's good that] everyone can continue their learning experience and their development."
Other neighborhood residents feel that the community has been relatively compliant in terms of following coronavirus protocol, and fear students returning to campus could reverse AU’s mitigation.
Various AU Park residents raised concerns about both the return of students to campus and students living off campus citing that they understand the difficult restraints that COVID-19 guidelines have placed on young people’s social lives, but that they hope students will remain respectful of the neighbors.