This article has been updated as of April 14, 2021.
The tours for potential students on Montclair State University’s campus are attracting serious controversy among the residential populace. It was a picture that sparked a thousand words and a residential protest on social media on Sunday.
Orlaígh Humphries, a freshman animation major, snapped a picture from their dorm room window in Blanton Hall. The photo shows a massive group of people amassed in front of Sam’s Place, blocking exits and entrances. Humphries shared the post on Instagram with a caption, “Welcome to Montclair State University. A place where the staff pins blame of rising [COVID-19] cases solely on the students living on campus because there is no way it’s their fault.”
Humphries’ post gained over 900 likes at the time of writing and sparked a grassroots protest movement built up by the residential students.
“It is hypocritical for the campus staff to claim it’s solely the fault of the students living on campus when they are the ones breaking the bubble by bringing people from [off campus] inside on tours,” Humphries said.
This was not an isolated incident of residential student frustration. An email sent to all residential students on Sunday morning titled, “Follow Protocols or Else!” reminded all residents that students must “maintain the bubble” and doubled down on travel restrictions to grocery stores, vehicles and family members’ houses.
Student reactions grew swift, ranging from frustrated Instagram posts to emails sent to the school’s designated coronavirus (COVID-19) response email demanding reforms.
One such email in response to the COVID-19 email and widely shared on social media by freshman psychology major Allison McCann, asked the school why residential students received such harsh treatment.
“Why are students paying an exorbitant amount of money to go sit in our rooms and do classes online if we can’t have guests or go to the grocery store?” McCann wrote.
The initial post made by McCann racked up over two thousand Instagram likes on Sunday. The post, as well as a petition made by fellow freshman psychology major Skylar Willoughby, also spread widely to Montclair State social media circles.
“The last straw was the email they sent out today trying to blame students for a problem that they are making worse,” McCann said. “I had been debating emailing them for a while because of the tours, but that is what pushed it over the edge.”
McCann is organizing resources to ensure the school responds to the crisis immediately but is not alone in the fight.
It took four hours for Skylar Willoughby’s petition to get 1,000 signatures on change.org. Titled “Montclair State University” as well as featuring the Humphries’ tour group image prominently, the document lists serious grievances made by the residential student body.
“I completely understand why Montclair [State] sent out that email about the guest policy due to a rise in COVID-19 cases, but residents are not the only problem,” Willoughby said. “Tour groups and commuters do not get tested and they can roam around campus. They could possibly infect a tour guide who can infect others and we would have no idea until someone tested positive for COVID-19.”
The tour groups are led by the Undergraduate Admissions Student Ambassador program. While the tours require all participants to use masks and limit to “one student and two guests per family” according to the website, pictures show groups larger than 20 going through campus. Much like the student body, all are expected to fill out Hawk Checks before entering campus and are expected to follow social distancing guidelines.
While the website says all tours are outdoor and walking, images from students such as Instagram user @jesspocheck show tour groups being led into Machuga Hall. A member of the student ambassador group declined to comment.
The university and Residence Life have not made any statements regarding these actions.
Montclair State University Media Relations Director Andrew Mees stated: “Effective April 14, tours will be limited to four families with three guests for each family (for a total of 12 guests per tour), and tours will be conducted entirely outdoors with the exception of University Hall, College Hall and unoccupied dorm buildings. This is in addition to all of the safety measures previously implemented for on-campus tours to ensure as safe an environment as possible.”
Mees continued: “We understand the current safety protocols are stringent, but they are meant to protect all members of our community. We want to thank the vast majority of our students who have adhered to them throughout this semester and in the fall. Without your efforts, we would not have been able to remain open and provide the on-campus learning opportunities so many of you wanted.”
More updates will follow and be added to this article as they become known.