Wilson Library and Red Square are sorely missed
Many Western Washington University students are experiencing another quarter away from campus after an announcement from Rich Van Den Hul, WWU incident manager and vice president for business and financial affairs, that all classes will be taught remotely until Tuesday, Jan. 19, when classes with in-person meetings will be allowed to continue.
In light of the unprecedented limits to campus life brought by COVID-19, The Western Front asked students to reflect on what they miss most about campus.
According to students, two longed-for fixtures of campus life are the Wilson Library and Red Square.
Red Square, the bricked plaza in north campus, is a pedestrian hub where clubs and campus organizations host events and activities. Students also use the space to meet up with friends and relax between classes. Wilson Library is as much a study spot as it is an environment for students to engage in public life.
Kelli Youngs, a fourth-year political science student at Western, still lives on campus, but she said the lack of student presence makes her feel disconnected from the school and other people.
“I miss going to the library to study. I also miss things that were a part of daily life on campus, like walking through a crowd of people rushing to class in Red Square or going to a coffee shop,” Youngs said. “Since I live on campus, I still have access to the arboretum and the pathways on campus. I still take walks around the area, but it's not the same as it was before COVID[-19].”
Ramon Robalino, a fourth-year economics student at Western, worked at the Info and Circulation desks at the Wilson Library before it closed last March. Robalino said he enjoyed people watching during his downtime.
“It's kind of interesting, 'cause you know how [the Info and Circulation desks] are positioned,” Robalino said. “They’re at doorways, so you always see people walking in and they're just meeting up with friends, going to all sorts of stuff.”
Dr. Kira Mauseth, senior instructor of psychology at Seattle University, clinical psychologist and co-lead for the Behavioral Health Strike team for the Washington State Department of Health, said she understands why students might be feeling a sense of disconnect.
“By not physically walking around on campus, you're not seeing other people your own age, Mauseth said. “You're not able to engage in a lot of the social activities where you see how people are dressing, how they're communicating with each other.”
Eric Alexander, executive director of student engagement at Western, recognizes the importance of these campus spaces, and said he continues to be interested in re-opening the Viking Union in the future, so long as COVID-19 regulations allow it.
“We like to call student unions the ‘campus living room’ or ‘the living room of the campus’,” Alexander said. “This is the space to get away from your living environment, or to meet people, and to hang out and to be in a different place.”
Some Western students are also missing their daily campus routines.
Maya Blankenship, a third-year linguistics student at Western, as well as Youngs both reported a lack of daily structure and routine. Blankenship said she misses her pre-COVID-19 routine of exercising with friends at the Wade King Student Recreation Center every day after class.
“Now my routine is kind of embarrassing,” Blankenship said. “I do hardly anything at all now, and I feel like because I'm also not walking around on campus, I've missed a lot of that daily exercise too.”
Chatting with faculty, wheelchair basketball at the rec center and mentoring undergraduate students were fixtures of Western life that L.C. Osadchuck, an Anthropology graduate student, used to look forward to. Her service dog, Hunch, whom Osadchuck said resembles a bear, a lion or a Wookie, misses stopping in to get treats from faculty and staff offices.
“We made so many friends with faculty, with staff, with various administrators,” Osadchuck said. “And you know, it feels like home and it feels like family.”