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Some residential students to be relocated to Opryland during presidential debate

Belmont will be relocating students living in numerous freshmen dorms to the Gaylord Opryland Center from Oct. 21-22 in order to make way for the presidential debate.

In order to allow Secret Service members to secure the area for the upcoming presidential debate, the students living in Wright, Maddox, Kennedy, Potter and Hail will have to temporarily vacate their rooms for 30 hours.

“I’m fine with staying in a hotel. If the Secret Service is telling us to do something, then I’ll do it,” said freshman commercial voice major Eli Yancey, who lives in Maddox Hall.

In an email to the affected students, the interim dean of students Paula Gill assured that all students undergoing the move will be following COVID-19 guidelines in order to keep them safe.

“All aspects of this transition will be done with our students’ health at the forefront and in consultation with the healthcare leaders who have been advising Belmont on our COVID-19 response,” said Gill in the email.

The university will provide students with transportation, meals and internet access for the duration of the one-night move.

At the hotel, students will be housed with their previous roommates. Resident administrative leadership of the impacted dorms, including resident assistants and resident directors, will be relocated alongside students.

“In addition, I will be joining this group of students at Gaylord Opryland to assist in making this a positive experience for all involved,” said Gill.

In partnership with the Music City Center, Belmont will also be providing a 180,000 square foot space for students to watch the debate and engage in socially distanced activities together. 

Students with family members living locally will be able to request exemptions from the move. 

For students like Yancey, that means making the decision between staying with relatives in Memphis, Tennessee or spending a night at the Gaylord. 

“I’m still deciding. It depends how the rest of the week is. It depends on what they have blocked off,” said Yancey.

Many students are excited about getting off campus and getting a staycation, like freshman biology major Claire Jonas who lives in Kennedy.

“I am glad we are off campus. The amount of planning and security measures Belmont has implemented is reflective of how much they care for the well-being of students and campus. Staying on campus would be difficult for things like getting food and exercises,” said Jonas.

But some students still have questions about transportation plans, proper social distancing measures and how Belmont will be monitoring which students go into which rooms.

“It seems weird that our main goal is quarantine and staying safe, but then we are just going to randomly move a bunch of people to a hotel. It’s just weird,” said Yancey. 

Greg Pillon, director of communications at Belmont, said the university will provide more details soon.

This article written by Kendall Crawford, Allison Fedorchek, and Isabelle Miller.

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