This week on campus will look different for a lot of students — especially those being moved to the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center for debate night.
Belmont’s plan to relocate five freshman halls to the resort has invoked everything from excitement to concern to envy from students on campus.
“I’m jealous. I want to go to Gaylord Opryland because that would be such a fun experience since COVID has kind of taken away from our freshman year a little bit,” said freshman Patton resident Kate Kelly.
For some, there is concern that COVID-19 will be brought to campus by students who went to Opryland.
“I think it is helpful to guarantee the safety of the presidential candidates, but I do think it is increasing the chances of COVID-19 being brought to campus,” said sophomore Patton Hall residential assistant Lizzie Wilson.
Other students trust their peers to take the necessary precautions to keep Belmont safe.
“I’m not worried about people bringing back COVID because I trust that everyone going will be safe and wear their masks and social distance,” said Kelly. “And I know Belmont will have ramifications in place and so it won’t just be a free-for-all.”
Dr. Anthony Donovan, associate dean of students and director of residence life, assured students COVID-19 guidelines will be followed throughout the entire transition to Opryland.
“We’re working out some of our transportation details, but we’re hoping to use guidelines that other people have used successfully in terms of the number of people per bus. They would be socially distant, wearing masks, just all the same things they’ve been doing,” said Donovan.
The responsibility falls onto students to follow COVID-19 guidelines once they arrive at the hotel, said Donovan.
“We’re going to ask that students obey the rules that we have and honor, you know, pledges that they made at the beginning,” said Donovan. “We would expect them to follow all the rules that they have here on campus, as well.”
This includes not visiting one another’s rooms at the hotel.
Even with the COVID-19 precautions in place, Donovan hopes those going to Opryland will be able to make the most of their experience.
“We’re hoping that they’ll be able to take advantage of the space. We’re hoping that it feels like a treat for them,” said Donovan.
To make this experience easy for students, Belmont will provide meals to students at no cost.
“We have arranged for breakfast and lunch to be served to students on Thursday at the Opryland in two of the ballrooms. And then finally we will have a boxed dinner delivered to students at the Music Center via Sodexo,” said Donovan.
Belmont has also arranged a viewing of the debate at the Music City Center, sparking excitement from freshmen attending.
“I can’t wait to actually watch the presidential debate at Music City Center because I can vote this year,” said Alex Harris, a freshman Potter resident.
“I think it’s a great alternative to actually being at the school for the debate. While we can’t be present for security reasons, I’m glad they’re giving us the opportunity to watch it at Music City Center,” said Katie Farley, a theater major and Potter resident.
“I think it will make the experience memorable.”
This article written by Allison Fedorchek and Isabelle Miller. Contributory reporting by Sean Phelan and Sam Reisenberg.