“Better than normal” is at least better than last year, according to students

Victoria Olaleye, Reporter

Park University is back at full capacity. That means dorm residents are living with roommates again. Classrooms are full. And parking spaces may be harder to come by. While policies related to COVID-19 have changed compared to last academic year, there are still rules and guidelines in place. But Interim President Shane Smeed characterized this year as “better than normal” in an email over the summer.

Junior criminal justice and human resource management major Manika Karki said going back to normal is not a quick change, but everyone is learning to adjust to the continuous changes in how things are done. Speaking on the topic of the new normal, J-Aller Jackson, a junior majoring in business administration, said communicating is tough. With the use of face masks, it can be hard to tell who you’re talking to and see facial expressions.

Some of the noticeable changes are the dorms returning to full capacity, face-to-face events resuming, the use of nano sprayers in classrooms, allowing guests in the dorms and others. In the past year, guests were not allowed in the residential halls.

“I think now the policies are a little bit less strict which is good,” said Bayan Salam, a senior majoring in criminal justice and psychology. Salam mentioned how last year’s guest policy was difficult. Students couldn’t hang out with other students or study with them in the dorms if they were not residential students.

This year, that has changed with newer policies. Students can now have guests in the dorms, but guests have to sign in at the front desk and abide with the rules of their visitation. Salam thinks it makes students feel better especially with having other Park students visit the dorms. “We also have more students, less social distancing, with masks of course, and I think that’s good because you can see more people than you used to be able to see,” Salam said.

Alex Hale, a senior criminal justice major, said it’s good to be back in the dorms and away from home to avoid distractions. Being a senior, Hale said he has mixed feelings about returning to school. On one hand, he’s excited to see friends and professors he hasn’t seen in a while. On the other hand, he’s not too excited for classes and to have missed some time away from school.

Returning as a residential assistant in Copley Quad, Karki was excited to meet her residents and hang out with other RAs. Karki, who loves socializing with her peers, said she feels more connected to people now that Park is back on campus full-time.

“I feel like I was not so grateful at that time. I feel like we should take this opportunity as a chance to value the friendships, value the bonds and everything, so I feel like I’m being more connected after this COVID pandemic happened,” she said.

The announcement to resume to full capacity initially scared Karki, since COVID is still an issue with uncertainties surrounding it. However, she is excited for events to take place on campus as she couldn’t attend many of events in the last year.  Events on campus are returning to face-to-face. Since school resumed, there have been athletic events and other activities by clubs and organizations to keep students engaged.

As president of Park Student Activities Board, Salam noticed an increase in the number of students showing up to events. She also noted the difficulties that come with hosting more students, and how it can be challenging to control the crowd and enforce COVID policies.

“I want people to come, but I also want them to be safe,” she said. Salam said as students keep showing up to their events, it would change the organization’s strategies for upcoming events. With events happening on campus, Salam said, “I do think it’s very busy, which is a good thing, so I think it’s better. I feel better when it’s busy than when it’s not, like how it was last year.”

Jackson said he’s excited to watch Park athletics and see everyone cheer for the teams. He hopes the campus won’t be shut down again. “You are getting to get that real college experience,” Jackson said about events resuming at full capacity.

This is the same for Manoj Khatiwada, a senior majoring in business management, who said college is more than going to classes, it is an experience. He did not get this full experience when the school had to shut down in 2020. Khatiwada looked forward to being involved in clubs and organizations when he heard the school was resuming to full capacity.

Another change is that many Parkville classes are back to meeting in person instead of being conducted online or through Zoom. Students and faculty do have to wear face masks in the classroom, but class sizes have also returned to pre-pandemic levels. Every classroom has a nano sprayer that is used to disinfect the class after every session.

According to Karki, who is an international student, one impact of COVID was the ability to take in-person courses online instead during the last year. This was a helpful change for international students who couldn’t take online classes before the pandemic.

Karki said she has noticed fewer people in her classes this semester as people might be taking online classes because it is still an option.

Khatiwada, who is only taking online classes this semester, said virtual learning was a difficult transition during the pandemic, but fortunately he has become familiar with the online setup and it is more interactive.

Khatiwada said he’s not missing the faculty-student relationship because he is involved on campus as a student worker and attends events on campus. He’s able to see his professors and see the new school of business building. Khatiwada, who’s also the president of Rotaract Club, says it is easier to reach out to students about the club this year.

For many students, “better than normal” is a better way to do school compared to last year with limited options. Events like homecoming and international week, among others, are in plans for the semester.