Editor’s Note: A student who is in athletic programs at UR spoke with The Collegian on the condition of anonymity about her experiences regarding COVID-19 prevention.
Undergraduate student-athletes living off campus are allowed to attend on-campus practices and participate in games, despite the policy generally barring off-campus students from coming to campus until Feb. 8.
Senior Associate Director of Athletics Lauren Wicklund told student-athletes about this exception to the general policy in a Jan. 24 Zoom meeting, which was mandatory for all student-athletes living off campus, senior soccer player Katie Tritt said.
Student-athletes living off campus were notified about the mandatory meeting at 5:46 p.m. on Jan. 24, according to a copy of the email Wicklund sent to off-campus student-athletes obtained by The Collegian. The email noted that the meeting would be "in response to the university’s announcement for the next 2 weeks" but did not disclose what the announcement was. The meeting took place at 6:30 p.m., according to the email.
UR did not send its official announcement regarding its decision to generally bar off-campus students from campus until 6:25 p.m., when Steve Bisese, vice president for student development; David Hale, executive vice president and chief operating officer; and Jeffrey Legro, executive vice president and provost, sent an email to the student body.
Off-campus students may come on campus before Feb. 8 only if they are taking a mandatory prevalence test, receiving health care at the Student Health Center or picking up library materials or textbooks, according to the email.
The email stated the restrictions would apply to all undergraduate students living off campus. It contained no mention of exceptions made for student-athletes.
Cynthia Price, associate vice president of media and public relations, confirmed that off-campus student-athletes are allowed to practice on campus despite the policy barring off-campus students from campus.
“Student-athletes continue to follow all University and NCAA rules,” Price wrote in a Feb 2 email to The Collegian. “Athletes living off-campus have been allowed to practice on campus in the Athletic facilities, which are at the perimeter of campus.
“The athletes were granted access to that building alone to practice; otherwise, off-campus athletes follow the same protocols as all other off-campus undergraduate students. They are not allowed to attend classes in person or eat in the dining facilities until the restrictions for off-campus undergraduate students are lifted.”
Associate director of athletic public relations Jason Vida directed The Collegian’s request for UR athletics’ comment to University Communications.
A fifth-year Westhampton student-athlete is required to get tested twice per week because she lives off campus, she said. The student-athlete spoke to The Collegian on the condition of anonymity, as she was concerned about repercussions from the UR administration.
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The fifth-year understands the concern UR has with off-campus students at the moment, but she thinks student-athletes should be allowed to use all campus facilities since they get tested more frequently, she said.
Although undergraduate student-athletes are able to come to campus for practices and games, they are still barred from using any other campus facilities, including dining services, Tritt said Wicklund told student-athletes during the Jan. 24 Zoom meeting.
Not being able to get food on campus limits the ability of student-athletes to socialize with their teammates, the fifth-year said.
“A really important part of being successful on the field is also building relationships outside of the field,” she said. “So it's frustrating not having that, because basically the only time you get to see your teammates is when you're sweaty and playing against each other.”
Student-athletes living off campus are required to buy the Spider Blue meal plan at minimum, which costs $990 per semester and translates directly to dining dollars, according to UR’s Dining Services website.
The fifth-year expressed her current irritation with the meal plan requirement since not having access to dining services on campus affects off-campus athletes’ ability to use the services they are paying for, she said.
“We purchase dining dollars dollar for dollar, so the money just goes away if we don’t use it,” she said. “Honestly, two weeks isn’t too bad of missing out; however, if this continues, I will personally push to get a refund on my meal plan if I can’t use the funds. That’s just a waste of money.”
Tritt said not being able to use UR dining services was inconvenient because eating before or after practices was a part of her routine.
Adding onto the strain of not being able to use their meal plans, off-campus students, including student-athletes, who have on-campus jobs are not able to work unless their job can transition to remote work.
“I can still [financially] manage, but it's definitely hurting not being able to work,” the fifth-year student said.
Attending classes remotely has been a challenge for Tritt. The majority of her classes were supposed to be in-person, she said, and two of her classes were based heavily on collaboration with her classmates. Her other in-person class is ballet, she said.
“It's much harder to just do it over Zoom and not actually be in person with the professor, and not [be] able to see everything that she does,” she said.
Tritt lived on campus before this semester, but decided to move off campus this semester in case on-campus students were sent home before the end of the semester, she said.
“I needed to know that I had a place secure for the whole entire year in case we were to get kicked off campus,” she said. “I needed to know that I would be able to be in Richmond for the entire year for financial reasons.”
Both student-athletes are glad they are allowed to return to campus for practice, they said.
“[Attending practice on campus] is keeping me motivated and keeps me going,” Tritt said. “I'm just hoping that things will return to more of a normal once we finish these two weeks virtually.”
Contact news editor Jackie Llanos at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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