“When I learned Emory had openings in this extremely challenging year, I wanted to help,” explains Glover, who serves as a Community Compact coordinator. “I had a great time as an Emory student and wanted to share that with students who are here now.”
Glover was not the only one to hear the call. Bethany Scheel, a history and English major, accepted a position as a Community Compact proctor. “I knew there was going to be a huge learning curve for fall semester,” says Scheel, a Georgia native and member of the Class of 2022. “I wanted to help ease that burden and support the community as we fight the pandemic together.”
The COVID-19 2020-2021 Emory Community Compact for Students is one element of Emory’s commitment to keeping the university community safe throughout the pandemic. It applies to all students — undergraduate, graduate and professional. The agreement, which students are required to sign, outlines individual behavioral expectations, including wearing face coverings and physical distancing, to inhibit the spread of COVID-19, prevent illness and save lives.
A diverse team of Campus Life staff in Residence Life, including recent graduates and current students, works around the clock in residence halls, common areas, indoors and outdoors, to remind students to uphold Community Compact guidelines to protect one another and keep the campus open.
The Community Compact is based on best practices in higher education, according to Scott Rausch, who leads the initiative as senior director for Residence Life and Sorority and Fraternity Life. His team includes the usual resident advisers (RAs) and sophomore advisers (SAs), student staff who live in residence halls and serve as guides and mentors for undergraduate students.
Last summer, Campus Life also filled 21 new positions – four community compact coordinators and the proctors who report to them.
“I could not be prouder of my entire staff,” Rausch says. “These are challenging times and every member of this team has stepped up to meet every challenge presented to them.”
Jeremy Male also was born and raised in Georgia. After graduating from Emory in 2018, he joined the Peace Corps and served in Moldova, where he taught English in a small, rural primary school until all volunteers were sent home early due to the pandemic. Male soon found another way to serve others — as a Community Compact coordinator.
Nicholas Sapp, a University of Chicago graduate, started his career at Emory in 2019 in Student Financial Services. He transitioned from SFS to Residence Life this year to serve as a compact coordinator. Nicholas, who is considering a career in student affairs, says he’s always been interested in student life and his current position offers an opportunity to learn more about it, especially during the pandemic.
Patrycja Kepa, a senior majoring in business administration and psychology, has worked with Residence Life since her second year at Emory. “As an out-of-state and first-generation college student, Residence Life is the reason I found so much comfort and friendship on campus,” notes the senior resident advisor in Residence Life. “And that is something I want to share with my residents.”
Sri Ponnazhagan, also Class of 2021, is a psychology major and RA in Residence Life. “Open-mindedness and compassion are extremely important to me, and I believe a successful RA embodies these values by aiding first-year students throughout the college transition,” he says. “I enjoy serving as an approachable mentor and want to be someone who residents can trust.”
While RAs and SAs provide an around-the-clock presence in residence halls, coordinators and proctors work primarily outdoors, evenings and nights, throughout campus. On their rounds, they engage students on the Community Compact and, when necessary, remind them of their responsibility as members of the Emory community to comply with the compact.
“Most students are following guidelines,” Glover says. “I think we need to work on empowering students to intervene and be comfortable in talking to their friends about following the rules.”
Rausch also praises Emory students, agreeing that the majority are upholding the Community Compact guidelines.
“This is not the school year that anyone expected or wanted,” he adds. “But most of our students are still finding many ways to engage with faculty, hang out with friends and participate in on-campus activities. And we’re here to support them every step of the way.”
The six members of the Residence Life team introduced above were invited to respond to several questions about their experiences.
Why is the Community Compact important?
Glover: It can save lives. There are a lot of people making sure that the Emory community is safe, and that can only be achieved through a commitment to each other.
Kepa: The Community Compact represents a promise of care and compassion toward other students, faculty and staff on campus. For me, the scariest thing is that any one of us who is careless can be the cause of someone else’s infection and even their death.
Male: The Community Compact shows the collective commitment of Emory community members to each other’s health and safety.
Ponnazhagan: Upholding the Compact is crucial for remaining on campus. It’s basic decency to practice safe and healthy behaviors to keep fellow Emory community members safe and reduce COVID-19 transmission overall.
Sapp: It provides basic standards, an agreement that says “we want to make the best out of this experience for everyone, and here are some ways that we think will best allow that to happen.”
Scheel: It holds us all accountable for our actions by setting out a concrete group of rules that we can all hold ourselves and our peers accountable to.
Can you share an example of positive encounters with students when you’ve reminded them to follow the Community Compact guidelines?
Glover: One day, a student noticed my Community Compact polo shirt and thanked me for doing work that can be hard and tiring.
Sapp: I was doing rounds at the ESC one night and asked a group of students who were congregating on the large steps to physically distance. When I came back around, they had grabbed foldable chairs from the nearby tent and were seated in a large circle, with enough room between each to be considered physically distant.
Scheel: The other day I was walking by the tables outside of Alabama and there was a group of five guys sitting/standing around a table. One or two didn’t have their masks on, so I just quickly reminded them they needed to keep them on when they were on campus. All were quick to comply and one even complimented my haircut, which I thought was very kind.
What would you like to say to all Emory students about the Community Compact?
Male: Your adherence to the Community Compact affects more than just you and your classmates, but all the Emory faculty, staff and community members who work tirelessly to provide the best college experience possible to you.
Scheel: These aren’t arbitrary rules meant to crush your social life or ruin your first year of college. They’re meant to make sure that we can 1) keep everyone as safe as possible; and 2) allow everyone to be on campus as much as possible.
Ponnazhagan: Do your part. Student staff shouldn’t have to constantly remind students who violate the expectations. Most everyone on campus is legally an adult who ought to take responsibility for their actions. The Community Compact was implemented to keep each person safe at a time when hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost, so the least you can do is follow the rules.
Sapp: Thank you to those who respect and seek to abide by the Compact. You are doing a great job keeping not only your health and safety in check, but also that of your friends and the greater community as well.