The loud ringing from construction sites and the echo of power drills are the only sounds heard on Utah State University’s almost lifeless campus these days.
“It’s a ghost town,” sophomore Emily Gilbert said. “It’s almost eerie.”
Although campus is basically shut down, there are places on campus, including the library and cafeterias, that remain open. Remaining open requires student workers. USU students working through the COVID-19 pandemic share opinions on job security, safety and getting through the day.
“I wish there was a definitive answer on what is going to happen to us,” junior Kielee Kinghorn said. “We don’t know if we are going to be open a week from now.”
Kinghorn, who works at Quickstop, a convenience store located inside the Taggart Student Center, said USU’s dining services has “been good at keeping them informed,” despite all the uncertainty.
Calee Broderick, a non-student worker in dining services, said she was grateful to have a job. According to Broderick and Kinghorn, many students who work in dining services left campus to go home when campus closure was announced. Fortunately, they said, dining services are fair with hours and most operations remain business as usual.
As Broderick is speaking, she holds a bottle of WAXIE cleaning spray, a new chemical brought in to combat any germs customers leave behind.
“It’s supposed to be stronger than anything we’ve cleaned with before,” she said. “We are also cleaning constantly, wiping stuff down that we never used to and wearing gloves for everything.”
Although it is slower than normal, Broderick and Kinghorn are fine with the quiet and reiterate they are happy to still be working when others cannot.
Just up the hallway in the TSC, senior Maggie Thompson — who works at Scotsman’s Corner — said she was not happy with how quiet everything is and said it’s “really boring.”
As Thompson is talking, she stands near a large sign that states all dine in services are closed by order of Gov. Herbert. Students may order from the food court and leave, but tables and chairs are roped off. Chairs are even stacked together on outside tables to discourage people from utilizing any dining spaces.
“I miss the social interaction,” Thompson said. “This is my senior year and I am sad it’s ending like this.”
While she agreed that dining services had been fair with hours, she said the hours worked felt much longer.
“We are doing a lot of deep cleaning; I don’t think I’ve ever done so much cleaning in my life.”
Thompson said she is not worried about COVID-19 and is grateful dining services is keeping people on staff.
“I’m a college student, I can’t afford NOT to have a job,” she said.
Not every student worker feels at ease. Gilbert works at the campus store and doesn’t understand why they are still open.
“They don’t want anyone on campus, yet they have us here as non-essential staff,” she said.
However, one advantage to closing campus is very few students are coming into campus stores anyway. Besides the employees, there are only four or five other people in the whole building.
As a result, social distancing is easier to maintain.
She added that they were taking things “day by day.”
Another campus store employee, freshman Melody Wooten, said she also had the “one day at a time mentality” but is worried she will wake up one of those days and not have a job.
“The campus store has been awesome with us, but we can’t stay open if people stop coming in,” Wooten said. “We have to get money somewhere.”
Cash is no longer allowed to purchase items in the campus store, and Wooten wipes down the keyboard after every transaction.
“I guess I didn’t take this COVID-19 thing as seriously as I should have,” she said. “I was worried about other things.”
Across campus in the Merrill-Cazier Library, freshman Alisha Hawley sits behind a circulation desk surrounded by cleaning chemicals. After each student gets up, Hawley puts on a pair of gloves, sprays the computer area and wipes down the desk, chair and table.
Students are also encouraged to wipe down their own area before they use a desk. In fact, there are almost as many Lysol wipes as there are computers. Some computers also have signs over them stating they are off limits to encourage social distancing.
“We have to stay open because, now that classes are online, we are essential for students that don’t have access to a computer,” Hawley said.
According to Hawley the transition has been “turbulent.”
“Between closing to the public, new cleaning procedures and new hours, it’s been a rough time,” she said.
At the end of the end of the day, Hawley said she isn’t worried about getting sick.
“People are going to act in their best interest, which is to stay home and not get others sick,” she said.
USU Dean of libraries Bradford Cole is also optimistic about how the library is running. He said students have been respectful about new rules, such as remaining on the first floor, and they have had no problems with the general public.
According to Cole, they have been able to keep all library personnel employed and have them working on special projects from home. One project includes transcribing documents to make them “keyword searchable.” Cole said doing this will finally make them in line with the American with Disabilities Act Standards.
“So this COVID-19 thing does have a silver lining,” Cole said.