Dordt finishes two in-person semesters during pandemic

Emma Stoltzfus — co-chief editor

Like 524 of her peers last fall, Sarah Holmberg spent part of her semester under quarantine in Dordt University’s efforts to halt on-campus spread.

“This has been one of the hardest years for me, both academically and personally.” Holberg said, “Even though it can be easy to get frustrated at faculty, friends, or the way classes have turned out, I have also seen lots of good conversations, laughs, and grace given in this school year.”

The past two semesters at Dordt University have been filled with ups and downs. The world had to adjust in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and those changes are apparent on campus.

Signs are posted on the walkways and walls encouraging people to social distance and keep foot-traffic moving effectively. The Bubble popped up next to the Commons for a few months to allow extra eating space. Students went home after Thanksgiving to cut down on a potential post-holiday case spike. Until April 5, Dordt required masks to be worn in campus buildings. Shortly after, students had the chance to receive the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in an on-campus clinic. Now, the semester is wrapping up and the seniors are preparing for an in-person graduation ceremony. 

Dordt has been operating under their yellow alert level since early fall, but the actual campus policies have fluctuated throughout the school year.

Some decisions by Dordt received mixed feelings from students and faculty. When the second semester opened with requests for students to wear masks and practice social distancing, several Google Sheets petitions started making the rounds and students argued anonymously about whether to follow Dordt protocols. The dropping of the mask mandate a few months later again attracted criticism and debate in the community and online. Many classes continued to require masks at the behest of students or faculty. 

The fall semester saw 151 confirmed reported COVID-19 cases among students, and 525 individuals quarantined. The spring semester went significantly better in comparison. The latest numbers as of April 29 counted a total of 139 individuals quarantined and 22 confirmed reported cases over the past semester.

The 2020-21 school year is drawing to a close and students are scrambling during dead week and finals. Graduates and their families look forward to an on-campus graduation, though not all aspects of the ceremony will be in person for everyone. There reamins limited seating in the B.J. Haan, so many guests will be seated in the more spread out Rec Center, De Witt Gym, or larger classrooms to watch the graduates on a broadcasted livestream. Due to the number of attendees, those seated in the B.J. Haan will have some space between parties but will not be socially distanced. 

“We are going to ask both graduates and guests inside of there are wearing masks during the ceremony,” Erik Hoekstra said in a video message outlining Dordt commencement plans, “but I think it’s the right thing to do to balance everything we’ve faced together well.”

Looking back at the semester, Holmberg did say she felt administration acted vague or inconsistent in some of their decisions.

“Despite this, I know that there is information that I do not know when they make their decisions, so I just trust that they are making decisions in the interest of the students,” she said.

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