Week of Welcome Continues with Social Distancing Rules

Ibrahim Aksoy

Pace University’s traditional Week of Welcome (WOW)  took place as the campus welcomes new students and resumes in-person classes in a hybrid format. WOW was conducted for the first time during a pandemic, which caused Pace to impose strict social distancing and safety protocols to keep each attendee safe.

WOW is a week-long Pace tradition that welcomes first-year and transfer students to make the comfortable with the campus prior to the start of the semester. In the previous years, the schedule included lots of socially engaging events such as beach party and silent dance party.

However, due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continuing  to threaten the health of millions of people around the globe, some restrictions had to be put in place in order to create a safe environment for both incoming students and the whole Pace community.

“This year we did a full week of programs, both virtual and on-campus, instead of the usual four days in order to better accommodate social distancing and the students who were moving each day,” assistant director for orientation and transitions Kayla Betacchini said.

In addition to socially distanced events, Pace offered virtual events to keep each attendee healthy and allow all new incoming students to be part of the weeklong events. Students were asked to RSVP through SetterSync, SDCA’s new campus engagement platform, to limit each event to 50 attendees.

“We have tried to have a virtual aspect that way people who were uncomfortable with coming to in-person events or health reasons and concerns, they could still participate and see people on the screen and get to know new people,” sophomore applied psychology major and WOW leader Ashley Schlemmer said.

With limited capacity for each event, the traditional welcoming programs took more time.

“This semester, we had to have ‘shifts’ that the events and only have 50 students in attendance at each shift,” senior public relations major and planning board member Alexandra Jareck said.

As the pandemic the world has been facing since mid-march has affected millions of people’s health, some have preferred to stay home and attend events virtually. This year’s WOW has seen both positive and negative sides of virtual and socially distanced events.

“As for every virtual event, we didn’t really get good turnouts on those. But the in-person ones, like food trucks and movie night, maxed out every time!” Jareck added.

Some students opted to skip, or virtually attend, WOW as it is not a mandatory-to-attend event like orientations. The main goal of WOWO is to help students get used to campus and allow them to get to know new people. With health concerns, the turnout was lower compared to last year’s.

“I think it definitely played a part in that,” Schlemmer said. “Because a lot of people were hesitant to come out of their dorms and be with larger groups of people.”

Family members and guests were allowed to participate in some events along with incoming students. To reduce the transmission of the virus and impose social distancing rules, this year’s WOW had to bar any visitors from attending the weeklong events.

During some events, attendees were required to bring their own personal items like painting kits and blankets to keep the Pace community healthy. In the traditional movie night, social distancing circles were created to avoid crowds.

Additionally, face masks or coverings were required, tables were wiped down frequently, gloves used in every event, and hand sanitizers and disinfectants were provided to keep everyone healthy and safe.

Although the turnout was low because of COVID-19, the whole Pace community tried to keep each attendee and staff healthy by following d the social distancing rules.

“As the semester goes on, students will get used to checking the SetterSync and RSVPing for events and everyone will be more aware of the activities we have scheduled and how we are planning things with everyone’s health and safety in mind,” Betacchini said.