Purge sirens roared from Sellery Residence Hall as UW chancellor Rebecca Blank implemented a mandatory quarantine for both the Sellery and Witte residence halls beginning Wednesday night due to the recent high rates of positive COVID-19 test results on campus.
This announcement was sent to residence hall students and families around 8 p.m. and shortly after, chaos ensued.
Instagram videos and TikToks documented the wide-spread panic the news of the 14-day quarantine caused. Students were running all over Madison to get necessary items before the lockdown began. Images showed crowded grocery stores, packed with students not following social distancing guidelines.
The lockdown began at 10 p.m. on Sept. 9 and will remain for the next two weeks. Students cannot leave their residence halls and must follow CDC guidelines: wearing masks and social distancing everywhere beside their own rooms.
Kesley Adrian, a first-year student living in Sellery Residence Hall, said the news of the lockdown caused a lot of stress and chaos in the residence hall, where students had just begun their second week of college.
“Life inside of quarantine in Sellery drove me crazy. Just knowing that we couldn’t go outside made me feel trapped,” Adrian said. “I was not too shocked at the news but I was upset that it happened and the stress and panic surrounding it made the situation worse.”
Mark Shults, a first-year student living in Witte Residence Hall, said that he was in complete shock when he heard rumors of a lockdown. “There were RA’s in hazmat suits with megaphones going from floor to floor yelling at everyone to remain in their rooms, and we were all super confused.”.
Lindsay Duvel, a first-year student living in Witte Residence Hall, described life inside the hall, “Life inside quarantine is uneventful and the days are long. It is hard to motivate yourself to be productive while staying in your room.”
She described the pre-packaged lunches sent to them by UW-Madison: "The sandwich was soggy and reminded me of gross elementary school lunches.”
Being locked inside for two weeks with little to no support from the university would not be healthy for anyone’s sanity, especially for these new students just days into their new lives here in Madison.
Duvel stated that most folks in the residence halls were feeling down and that she is tired of doing tik toks and misses being outside. She compared life inside of the hall as a prison, stating how at least prisoners get to go outside for an hour each day, whereas members of these two residence halls cannot.
A few days into this abrupt mandatory quarantine, Adrian decided to fly home to California and self-isolate at home. Adrian described morale in the residence hall as low, as most students either had COVID or were planning on going home during this period.
A university-wide email stated that they did not want residents to leave the halls and go home. The idea of being stuck inside for two weeks with so many restrictions seemed inhumane to many students, who made the difficult decision to go home during this time.
Many students choosing to pack up and return home during this two-week lockdown contradicts the purpose of this “lock-in.” Residents are now returning home to many different places all over the country, furthering the spread of COVID-19 and proving this “lock-in” counter-effective and not thought out.
Students are going stir crazy being “trapped” inside their residence halls without the ability to go outdoors. The university has placed students as their last priority, demonstrating their lack of care for students' mental, emotional and physical health.
This mandatory two-week lockdown of Sellery and Witte has caused nothing but panic and stress for the new students at UW-Madison. The University’s limited two-hour notice for the quarantine of these residence halls was unacceptable. This short notice led to unnecessary chaos that could have been prevented with stronger planning and communication to the campus community.
UW-Madison could have put students’ well-being first by giving them more than a two-hour period to prepare for this “lock-in.” Better communication from university leadership about their plans regarding the influx of COVID-19 cases on our campus could have prevented this widespread panic.
The actions implemented came as a complete shock to the community from this lack of communication of UW-Madison’s plans.
These actions by UW-Madison were intended to “protect students’ health and well-being”, but in reality, they place students’ lives at risk just to have the university remain open. UW-Madison is endangering the lives of these new students and ruining their chance to have a “normal” start to their college experience. This two-week “lock-in” has done more harm than good for the new students at UW-Madison.
At what point does all this become too much?
Samantha is a Junior studying Strategic Communications, with a certificate in Digital Studies. Do you think this two-week lockdown is chaotic? Do you think such measures are counter-productive? Send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org