Dorm Members Connect Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

Campus is quiet and dorms are empty as the COVID-19 pandemic keeps students quarantined at home. Despite the novel circumstances, students and faculty have found ways to connect with their dorms virtually, while dorm leadership selection for the following year has been delayed.

According to Kathryn Dolan, Assistant Dean of Students and Residential Life, dorm leadership selection for the 2020-2021 school year has been delayed because the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new variables into deciding which dorms will be 9th and 10th grade dorms and which will be upperclassmen dorms. This decision affects all dorms, so both prefect and proctor selection has been pushed back from early May to much later in the month.

Erik Wang ’21, a proctor in Stuart House, believes that the change in the dorm leadership selection is understandable and largely inconsequential.

Wang said, “I assume that the administration has more pressing matters to deal with right now other than leadership position selection. It’s totally understandable for me. It’s not that big of a deal for many of us. And anyways, all of the people who applied are going to have an interview with their house counselor in the near future. That’s usually the process.”

As Andover adapts to a new online learning environment, house counselors and advisors are finding ways to connect virtually with students in their dorms. Bridget Tsemo, Instructor in English, is a house counselor for Day House South, and her dorm stays connected with weekly proctor-initiated check-ins. Without the students around, the dorm feels very quiet for her.

“I don’t want to sound all dramatic and say that I can feel the ghosts of the students, because you guys aren’t dead, so I don’t know if that’s appropriate, but there is definitely a quiet. The quiet is palpable. It’s just very noticeable that it is so quiet. And I like the bustle of the day, so I miss the students,” said Tsemo.

Catherine Carter, Instructor in Classics, is a house counselor in Hearsey House, and meets with her students through weekly Zoom meetings. Carter misses the atmosphere of campus and is disappointed to miss celebrating the Seniors’ Spring term.

“At this point, just touching base with everybody weekly maintains some of the connection the guys in the dorm have with each other and with the house counselors. I think having a regular opportunity to see each other face-to-face is the best we can do under the circumstances to try to replicate the connection we’re so lucky to have when everybody is together on campus,” said Carter.

Carter continued, “I’ll never again take for granted randomly running into students and colleagues on campus. I miss those informal interactions and seeing people on the paths, and I miss hearing the guys downstairs. We really enjoy having students in the house with us, and it’s much too quiet without them.”

Neil Shen ’22 lives in America House and appreciates the effort that his house counselors and advisors have made to stay connected and keep students informed during these uncertain times.

Shen said, “My dorm and I are trying to make the best of the situation. We’re staying connected through group chats and keeping each other updated on what’s going on these days. And our advisor updates us on the school’s policy, which I find very helpful, since it keeps us informed on what’s going on and provides us with some reassurance about the reopening of the school. Even though everyone is stressed out by this whole situation, I think our counselors and advisors have done a tremendous job of keeping everyone organized.”

While Tsemo misses the students a lot and tries to maintain her routine, she hopes that people can view this pandemic as a chance for growth and positive change, instead of only wishing to go back to “normal.”

“For the future, I hope that we can stop saying that we want to go back to… some idealized normal. I would like for us to stop thinking like that… I think that we have to get accustomed to the fact that we have to now become more of a presence online, whether we’re going to come back to one another or not, we should be prepared as academics, as people in education, to really navigate the internet, and it took this for us to start doing it,” said Tsemo.