In the first week of school, I had COVID-19. I caught it as an Orientation Leader before most people had even arrived on campus, and I was sent to isolation at the Pines for seven days after my first symptoms started. I have to be clear: This is in no way a critique of the First-Year Experience or their team, as my experience as an Orientation Leader was very positive. Just because I caught COVID-19 during that week does not mean I caught COVID-19 because of that week.
I started experiencing body aches in my shoulders and complete exhaustion the Monday before classes began. I just attributed this to me hunching over my laptop for too long and thought nothing of it. On Tuesday, I decided if I wasn’t feeling better by Wednesday I would get tested. On Thursday morning I received my positive test result.
I live in an apartment with four other people, and even though I live in a single and had been self-isolating, it didn’t feel fair to expose my housemates. Before I got tested, I called the Campus Safety non-emergency line, as the Health Center closes before most people get out of class, and let them know I was experiencing symptoms. Campus Security admitted that they were not sure what to do and suggested that I self-isolate until the Health Center opened the following morning. This felt wrong to me, but they gave me no other option.
When I received my positive test result, I emailed Chris Smith to notify him. He advised me to drive myself to the Pines at Apple Valley to begin my isolation. When he asked if I needed anything, I said I would need my textbooks from the Bookstore and he assured me I would get them. I never actually did receive my textbooks. This was surprising because at the time, Chris Smith admitted to me I was one of three students who tested positive and the only one who was choosing to isolate not at my own personal home.
The textbook problem wasn’t the only issue I encountered in my seven days at the Pines. Because Peirce is understaffed this fall, the school decided not to bring meals to students in isolation and instead send us Instacart packages to cook for ourselves. However, I was very sick until Sunday. I was not cooking. I went a couple of days on just peanut butter and jelly because I didn’t have the energy to cook. Furthermore, when we arrived at the Pines, the dishes were dirty and there were no sponges until we ordered them ourselves using our Instacart budget. While my parents were generous enough to allow me to DoorDash dinner most nights, I know most people do not have that option.
The Pines themselves, while a nice space, are not fit for isolation. Once my symptomatic roommate arrived, I could no longer use the common space to do work. I spent the rest of the week using my dresser as a desk. We were also told we were not allowed to go outside for walks even if we were fully masked.
The fact that no one called me all weekend to check and make sure I was still alive and not in critical condition was disturbing. The administrators only called when they needed something from me: information about my isolation space, my close contacts, my grocery order, etc. In my final day at the Pines, I was able to get a hold of Susan Morse, the Kenyon College chief of staff. She single-handedly restored my faith in this institution. She was the first person who I felt genuinely listened to me and wasn’t just checking off a box.
I finished isolation on Friday, Sept. 3. I only received instructions for moving back to campus after I had already moved out of the Pines. The email to my professors from Robin Hart Ruthenbeck letting them know it was safe for me to return to classes was sent Sunday night after I had already attended my courses.
I’m not thrilled by the way Kenyon treated me throughout this process. If it weren’t for my professors, I would be filling out a transfer application right now. The administration genuinely does not care about its students. If I’ve learned one thing as an economics major, it’s that Kenyon at its core is just another corporation. They don’t care what happens while you’re here as long as they get your tuition money at the start of every semester.
This writer was granted anonymity to protect their personal medical information.