On February 20, University of Maryland (UMD), implemented the “sequester in place” order for all students on campus. All “in-person” classes were cancelled. Students who lived in residence halls and sorority houses on campus were required to sequester and take the necessary distancing and masking precautions to curb the spread of COVID-19 for at least one week.
Ashley Gibley, a Hebron alumni and currently a freshman at the University of Maryland, said, “The sequestering order requires you to stay in your room when you are not going to the dining hall or going outside for fresh air in your immediate surroundings. The lounge of our building closed, as well as the gym, intramural sports, and academic buildings used for study spaces.”
The official online instructional message sent by Darryl Pines, the president of UMD, on the school website lists the necessary precautions that students must take, along with sequestering at their current place. To get fresh air and food from the dining halls, one can only go in the area immediately surrounding their residence hall. These strict instructions, if not followed, can lead to a student’s possible suspension or expulsion.
“With the conclusion of spring sorority rush and fraternity pledging, Greek life and campus bars have unfortunately been quite active. Spiking positivity rates and known cases of variants in Maryland made me comfortable with the safety measures put in place,” said Ellie Gustafon, a Hebron alumni and currently a junior at UMD. She then said, “I think the limitations on Greek life that are enforced would have been an important preventative step in controlling cases and avoiding sequester.”
One week before the sequestering order was implemented, 95 cases of COVID-19 were reported within the university’s community. This surge in the number of cases pushed UMD authorities to switch all classes to a virtual environment. Although UMD already had online classes, the sorority and fraternity houses remained socially active on the campus.
“They closed the gym, intramural sports, study spaces, and the dorm lounges, all of which are constantly monitored and mask-enforced,” said Gilbey. She then explained, “Taking away these safe options creates reverse incentives, and students end up hanging out in each others’ rooms without masks on. I think the University should have created more safe activities for students to participate in, rather than taking the safe options away.”
Many students were concerned about how the sequester in place policy would affect their life outside school. Gilbey explained how the policy affects mental health as they can not meet their friends, causing students to lose inspiration to study for school. On the other hand, Gustafon believes that the sequestering order was necessary and makes her feel safe and comfortable on campus.
The sequestering order was lifted last weekend after there was a decrease in the number of cases. The transition seems to be smooth as all sorority and fraternity activities have not resumed readily. Additionally, all classes remain virtual. After a spike in the COVID-19 cases, students are now more cautious about their actions around the campus and in social situations.