Correction on Oct. 15, 2020: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the ZIP code with the largest number of new COVID-19 cases in Oregon was 95701. The story has been updated to reflect that the ZIP code 97401, which many UO students reside in, had the largest number of new COVID-19 cases.
Editor's note: For this story, the Emerald interviewed staff of the Rec anonymously. This interview was conducted anonymously because the Employee Assistance Program at UO instructs Recstaff to direct all media questions to their supervisors. In this article, the anonymous Recstaff member is referred to as Jane Parker.
Six months ago, the University of Oregon campus entered quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With this quarantine came the shutdown of many amenities around UO that had become staples in the lives of attending students. Places like the Erb Memorial Union, the Student Recreation Center and the Knight Library all adapted to a new way of life during a global pandemic.
In those past six months, many campus facilities have made progress in reopening. While some initially did not have any remote options, many were able to adapt to the sudden shift from in-person events and activities to virtual experiences. Particular facilities that provided essential services to students also adapted the way they operated.
“I realized I wasn’t going to be working with the Rec when they started talking about finals being online,” Jane Parker, staff member at the Rec center said. “That's when I was like, ‘Something is going to happen.’”
The Rec center closed a week before spring break in March 2020 along with the Knight Library and a large portion of the EMU. In the EMU, some essential operations continued. EMU Director Laurie Woodward said the ID card station stayed open throughout quarantine because it was considered an essential service for students.
“One of our food vendors also wanted to stay open, so we kept Chipotle open the entire time,” Woodward said. “They wanted to be there doing takeout food.”
Although most of the EMU’s facilities were closed, a few program centers made the pivot to online in a matter of weeks. Only two weeks after closing, the crafts center in the EMU began hosting virtual workshops while the Center for Student Engagement hosted trivia tournaments online, according to Woodward. During this time, 80% of EMU staff were furloughed due to the closures.
The Knight Library operated their Knight Pickup Window with reduced hours during quarantine, which allowed students to pick up requested materials that they needed from the library. Book chutes were also available for students to return any library materials they had checked out during or before the quarantine, according to the Knight Library website.
During spring term of 2020 all classes that were normally held in the Rec took place online. All other facilities within the REC were closed throughout the summer.
As the summer went on, the EMU began to open spaces for students to study. Following the guidance of the university’s incident management team, the EMU began letting students use the study areas as access to WiFi became an essential need to complete courses online.
The EMU followed the state's reopening guidance for universities, restaurants and malls in order to configure the best way to go about opening more of their facilities. During this time, many staff members were able to resume their positions.
Around mid-summer, Rec Center employees were told that the building was planned to open in the fall.
“Things were very uncertain until we got any confirmation later in the summer,” Parker said. “My department was lucky because my boss was good at communicating with us.”
As the university enters fall term, many of the facilities are now reopened for student use. The EMU began setting out plans to reopen the rest of its facilities in accordance with the guidelines of both the governor and the university’s incident management team. All furloughed workers have returned to their positions, according to Woodward.
“What we are trying to do is a combination of virtual and in-person activities along with providing what we can for students,” Woodward said.
While most of the Rec has reopened to students and members, Parker expressed concern about the policies in place.
“I was told that it is Rec policy to allow people without masks in even if they don’t have doctors notes, and they’re just going to be written up,” said Parker.
Lane County and the University of Oregon are currently on high alert for COVID-19 cases. It was recently reported that the ZIP code 97401, which many UO students reside in, had the largest number of new COVID-19 cases in Oregon.