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Adapting to ensure residence halls are safe

David Ternier remembers some basic advice he received when starting out as a residence hall director: to reflect at day's end if he was doing what’s best for the students.  

“When I look at Residence Life right now, all that Student Life has done, I truly believe we’ve put the students first and done what’s best for them,” said Ternier, an Ohio State residence hall director since 2015. “Although the rest of the world and life as we know it has changed, we’re trying to make it as normal as possible.” 

Residence Life expects fewer students in residence hall for the autumn semester, according to Toni Greenslade-Smith, director of housing administration. University Housing has updated many of residence hall protocols to help students and staff navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, such as actions to promote physical distancing and face mask requirements.

Ternier, the residence hall director for Drackett Tower, has been in the thick of the university’s residence hall response to COVID-19 from the beginning. He said the response from Ohio State’s leadership, residence hall and cleaning staff and the students themselves gives him a lot of confidence.

“I do believe we’ll have a successful fall,” he said. “Ohio State has been very calculated and really taken extra steps to make sure our buildings and communities are safe while providing a great experience for students. Student safety is our top priority and that will never change.

“We’ve seen students take physical distancing seriously, they’re wearing face coverings, the housekeeping staff is working hard to make sure every space is deeply sanitized. In times like these, there will be uneasiness but I have 100 percent faith that we’re doing everything to put student safety first.”

Ternier began spring semester as the residence hall director for Drackett Tower, where he oversaw well over 800 students, including 23 RAs (resident advisors who are students).  

By the end of spring break in mid-March, following coronavirus-related shutdowns, he was overseeing Drackett and Jones towers, which had downsized to about 200 students, including 62 RAs. Everyone lived in their own rooms to maintain physical distancing. 

This summer, Ohio State had 147 undergraduates and 247 graduate students and families to live on campus. In place of the three halls that typically house undergraduate students for the summer semester, most stayed in Jones Tower. Jones, Neil, Gateway and Buckeye Village will remain open for graduate and professional students.  

All residence life staff members go above and beyond to help students adjust to a new normal. They organize virtual programming activities like watch parties or video game tournaments, answer questions, hand out facial coverings, distribute cleaning supplies and grab-n-go bags, and offer a listening ear whenever one is needed.  

“The feedback I’ve gotten from students is that Ohio State has done a great job of being on the ball and communicating to keep them in the loop,” Ternier said. “Knowing they have a university that cares and tries to support them through this pandemic has definitely had a positive effect.” 

Story updated: July 21, 2020

Published: May 27, 2020


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