UVM reopens visitor center despite continued student restrictions

UVM reopens visitor center despite continued student restrictions
Some prospective students and their families visiting UVM are not following university protocols on wearing masks. Photo by Mary McLellan/Vermont Cynic

Paige Fisher is a news  reporter for the Vermont Cynic, where a version of this article was first published. 

Despite strict Covid-19 policies for the student body, the University of Vermont is welcoming out-of-state visitors back on campus, with plans to allow them to enter UVM buildings. 

As UVM’s May 1 deadline looms for accepted students to enroll, university officials recently announced they would reopen the Admissions Visitor Center and start to offer in-person tours to small groups of prospective students and families. 

“Small-group guided tours with very limited access to buildings will begin on April 12,” Jay Jacobs, vice president for enrollment management, said in an April 5 email. “The guided tours will be initially limited to nine guests plus a guide,” he said, but “the size of guided tours may be increased to 15 guests later on.”

Even with this effort to direct prospective students and their parents to formal tours, current students and UVM employees continue to encounter families that are not in compliance with university policies to combat Covid-19. 

“A bunch of these families will walk in [to the Davis Center], completely ignoring the sign that says only UVM affiliates are only allowed to enter,” said Gabrielle Hubert, a UVM junior and bookstore employee.

UVM policy specifically prohibits campus visitors from entering any UVM building, including the Davis Center, according to signs posted around campus. Even so, Hubert said she sees anywhere from five to 12 families during each of her two-hour shifts. 

Part of the reopening process for the Admissions Visitor Center is to have staff on hand to “ensure visitors are adhering to Vermont travel guidelines,” Jacobs said in his April 5 email. 

According to the undergraduate admissions website, only Vermonters who have not left the state for the last 14 days or vaccinated out-of-state residents can visit UVM for a campus tour. 

However, families visiting UVM told the Cynic the entry process was lax and did not require visitors to provide proof of vaccination, tests or quarantine. 

Accepted student Sylvie Johnson said she wasn’t asked many questions at the visitor center about Covid-19 despite having flown from Portland, Oregon.

“There was a woman sitting outside at a desk who was really friendly, and she gave us tour information and a bag with a bunch of little brochures,” Johnson said. “We didn’t have to fill out any travel restrictions.”

Diane Booth, mother of accepted student Owen Steenkamp, said the Covid-19 screening process was limited for her family as well. They drove to campus from Martha’s Vineyard, Booth said.

“We had called ahead and spoken to somebody before we came up, and they said that we would just have to answer a couple of questions, and we did,” she said. 

Other families skipped the visitor center altogether. Admitted student Carolin Taylor said she visited the university in winter, so she didn’t feel compelled to take a guided tour.

“We haven’t gone to the visitors center because [Carolin] is actually kind of giving me the tour that she got in February,” her mother, Erin Taylor, said.

Although they were coming from Rhode Island, Carolin and Erin Taylor said they met travel guidelines because they were both fully vaccinated and had quarantined for 14 days before their visit.

Senior Francesca Carasi said part of her job at the Davis Center information desk is to tell people, like the Taylors, that self-guided tours are available at the visitor center.

“We tell them that the Davis Center and other buildings on campus are closed to the public, but that we have the self-guided tour information,” she said.

A sign, posted at the flagpole entrance of UVM’S Davis Center, states that all buildings are closed to outside visitors. Photo by Mary McLellan/Vermont Cynic

Carasi said she has seen a decrease in the number of families trying to get into the building since the visitor center reopened.

Senior Chrysanthemum Harrell of the UVM Union of Students said she thinks the expansion of tours is unfair to the current student body.

“It feels like it’s a big middle finger,” she said. “Students are not allowed to go home and visit their families or have parents come to see them, but all these random people are allowed on campus.”

The spring 2021 Green and Gold Promise states that students should limit all out-of-state travel unless essential. 

Harrell said she would prefer that UVM either only offer online tours or push back the decision deadline and hold in-person tours after the spring term ends, because it’s unfair to invite parents to campus who may not be safe while maintaining strict sanctions on students.

The administration plans to expand the guided tour options in the coming weeks, Jacobs said.

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Tags: coronavirus, coronavirus Vermont, Covid, COVID-19, University of Vermont, UVM

Paige Fisher

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