‘Walk of shame:’ Students question VCU’s protocol for isolation transportation

Residential students who test positive for COVID-19 must move into isolation for a two-week period. Many are housed in Gladding Residence Center III. Photo by Andy Caress

Anya Sczerzenie, Staff Writer

The instructions are clear for residential students who test positive for COVID-19: Go into isolation. But for some, lack of transportation to prepared spaces can pose an issue.

Former residential assistant Caden Haney said he was evicted from university housing after giving one of his residents a ride to Gladding Residence Center III, where the student was to be moved into COVID-19 isolation housing.

“I am a housing insecure student and this sudden contract termination has left me in shambles … as I continue to appeal decisions that are being solely dictated by white cis-men deeming myself; a black, first-generation, low-income student a public health & safety risk,” Haney said in a direct message. 

Haney said VCU Residential Life & Housing did not offer his friend transportation to GRC III. 

“I did not want to risk the public health of the Richmond community members and students on campus with them walking,” Haney said.

The senior social work major was dismissed from his RA position when his housing contract was canceled. The university did not comment on whether any students have been evicted for transporting students to isolation housing. 

Jessica Buchanan, assistant director of Marketing and Communications for Residential Life & Housing, said in an email that a staff member will contact students by cell phone to arrange transportation into isolation.

Diamond Zetty, a freshman music education major, said she went into isolation housing and VCU did not offer transportation. Though Residential Life & Housing did contact her, Zetty said there was no mention or discussion of transportation.

“It didn’t bother me, because I was so close, but it did kind of feel like a walk of shame.” — Diamond Zetty, music education freshman

Zetty said she sees other students walking from GRC to GRC III “all the time.” She assumed VCU did not provide transportation and that she was expected to walk to isolation. Zetty said the university provided her a bus to MCV to get tested for the virus. 

Students living in on-campus residence halls who may have been exposed are expected to quarantine in their rooms until they receive a test result. 

Caroline Berkle, a freshman nursing science major who lives in GRC, said she knows what to do if she gets sick but doesn’t know who to contact for transportation.

“I’ve heard people just walk, but I don’t know for sure,” Berkle said.

VCU’s isolation housing is in GRC III, an older building behind the new high-rise Gladding Residence Center. Students who contract the virus are housed there for a two-week period and provided with three meals per day.

Freshman biology major Sarah Do, who lives in Brandt Hall, believes VCU’s students know what to do if they get sick.

“I feel like because we’re at a pretty liberal school, everyone understands how serious the virus is and they’re wearing masks,” Do said. 

Since the beginning of August, Virginia colleges have grappled with COVID-19, implementing new restrictions to get students back on campus. After reporting a spike in cases, James Madison University moved all classes online. Other universities, such as Virginia Tech, are open but limiting gatherings on and off campus to 15 people.

Rachael Davidson, a freshman biology major who lives in GRC, said VCU has done a good job of telling her what she needs to do if she contracts COVID-19.

“I feel like we know if we’re in contact with someone who tested positive, we should isolate ourselves,” Davidson said. “When we get a test result, we can go from there.”

Davidson said she hasn’t packed an emergency isolation bag, which the university recommends for residential students, but she has all of the necessary items, like masks and cleaning products, in her room. 

Information systems major Kevin Nguyen, a senior, said he would have had a hard time adapting to COVID-19 restrictions as a freshman. 

“As a freshman, all you want to do is hang out with your friends, and if there was something telling me to stay away from them, I’d be pretty upset.” Kevin Nguyen, information systems senior.

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