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Friday, April 16, 2021

Viking Union reopens for students

Though the Viking Union has opened its doors, students have to take several precautions before entering

An illustration of a student studying in the recently opened Viking Union study space while taking precautions like wearing a mask and sitting six feet apart from other students.
An illustration of a student studying in the recently opened Viking Union study space while taking precautions like wearing a mask and sitting six feet apart from other students. // Illustration by Sophia Lindstrom

By Tayler Robertson

Students stuck studying in their homes are now able to break free (#HSM pun intended) with the opening of the Viking Union. 

What was once a building that vibrated with the hustle and bustle of students rushing to get food before class, laughter from conversations with friends and the whirring of the coffee machines, has fallen quiet. While the Viking Union is not back to the normal pace of student life, it reopened its doors Nov. 10 as a COVID-19 safe study space. 

The Multi-Purpose Room in the Viking Union is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for students and faculty.

Greg McBride, assistant director of the Viking Union facilities and services, explained what it took to open up a building during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We had to come up with a plan about how we would do that [open up] based on guidance that we got from the state about gathering size and how to operate a facility,” McBride said. “Then, we had that reviewed … We then had to take the time to build some of those processes because they are new for us.”  

Schools like the University of Washington have also begun reopening buildings for students.

Taylor Church, associate director of facilities, operations and special projects at the Husky Union Building, said UW has entire buildings open for studying and activities. 

“We are open pretty much just for studying right now. There are no events, no meetings or anything,” Church said. 

Measures like social distancing are enforced by keeping tables six feet apart with only one student seated at them, Church said. Dr. Laura Palmer, a neuropsychologist of Laura Palmer, Ph. D., LLC & Associates, emphasized the importance of rules as students are able to venture out and find new study spaces. 

“We’re all having to figure this out. We have to get students back in school. We have to get people back to work. We have to get my older patients back engaged in recreational and social activity,” Palmer said.

McBride said Western Washington University is aiming to keep their student-funded environments clean and share how they keep the building safe and share the precautions used for their buildings. 

Greeters are at the front entrance to make sure students have filled out a health attestation, which guarantees they have not experienced COVID-19 symptoms. Masks must be worn at all times and students must sign in before entering the space.

Eric Alexander, executive director for student engagement at Western, emphasized the importance of giving students access to a “third space.” The first space being their dorm or apartment, the second being the classroom and the third being a place where they can study or socialize. 

“As we try to get these buildings open in the limited ways we can, we start to get back some of those other options for students that help round out their overall wellness, health and well-being,” Alexander said.

Mia Cadran, a second-year design major, has found the Multi-Purpose Room to be a great escape from the monotony of studying at home.

“I think it is really beneficial and very nice for me to go out and study somewhere else. I felt very productive and safe because they separated me, my roommate and my friend because of COVID[-19],” Cadran said

McBride said to get to the point of opening up the Viking Union, there was a lot of coordination with their leadership team and preparation for dealing with COVID-19 restrictions. Palmer offered advice for students utilizing the Viking Union and those who want to venture out of their houses into different study spaces. 

“Do it, but be smart about it,” Palmer said. “Like you have designated drivers when you’re going out with your friends to the bars. It’s like you need to have a designated person in the group to say, ‘Dude, you’ve got that mask under your nose; put it back up!’”

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