The summer of 2021 saw a return to normalcy after the lifting of Covid 19 restrictions.
The increasing number of vaccinated Americans meant old privileges such as family gatherings, public events, and domestic travel could finally be possible again.
In June, Ohio Wesleyan students received a glimmer of hope regarding the improved campus circumstances.
OWU announced fully vaccinated individuals on campus would no longer be required to wear masks or practice social distancing, according to updated public health guidelines. In addition, classes would be in-person, the number of vaccinated students at events would no longer be restricted, and school-related domestic travel could resume.
A conventional college experience finally appeared possible.
However, OWU students received a very different email as the delta variant gripped the world.
OWU revealed vaccinated students would now be required to wear masks indoors. Indoor events on campus with more than 50 people would be monitored, and student-athletes, regardless of vaccination status, would be tested regularly.
The sense of limbo that haunted students last year now returned in full force, and as students moved back to campus, concerns regarding health, safety, and the likelihood of a normal fall semester returned, too.
(PC: Paul Vernon,
The fall athletic season faced uncertainty under the reinstated mandates.
Last year, fall sports games were postponed, live-streamed, and closed to spectators. This year, however, students remained optimistic that peers, faculty, and family members would finally be permitted to attend games in person.
Sophomore volleyball player Melissa Murray commented, “We have a real season; we can compete, travel, and host team activities.,” staples of a sports season that were unsafe before.
Senior rugby player Katie Peterson shared Murray’s sentiment, “This is my first time getting to play in a year and a half. Not only am I just excited to have a season and be able to play, but also it’s my senior year, so this [is my] last time to play college rugby.”
Last year, practice hours were shortened to prevent students from congregating for long periods. This semester, however, athletes are returning to typical practice schedules. Also unlike last fall, athletes, when outside, can now practice unmasked.
Junior cheerleader Jaden Smith noted, “[My teammates and I] get to be a lot closer this year! Last year for stunting, we were always unsure of when and how to be close together but not close at the same time.” She added, “We didn’t have as much stunting experience last year, [but] this year we have so many new and fun things to show!”
Smith feels closer to her teammates now that their training schedule has returned to normal and athletes are no longer required to practice social distancing.
The high vaccination rates on campus have allowed students to adjust to a more conventional way of living, however, the pandemic still threatens the safety of the OWU community.
Peterson observed that the updated protocols allow the season to “feel more organized and safer,” which she notes is crucial in a full-contact sport.
Smith also revealed, “The most challenging part [of the season] is that we still have to watch who we are around outside of cheer because we might bring sickness to the team."
OWU students have learned to navigate the never-ending obstacles of the pandemic, while supporting one another and preserving hope for the future.
Additionally, 97% of students enrolled this fall have completed the vaccination process or received an exemption. The majority of faculty and staff members are also vaccinated.
OWU is working to protect the student body, faculty, and staff, while fostering a sense of consistency and community in a world that feels to be forever changing.
Peterson shared, “My graduating class has become very small over the last 3 years and entering our 4th. People [have] either transferred, dropped out, or decided to take time off due to COVID-19. I’m just looking forward to one last year at OWU with the people who have made it through four years together.”
(PC Paul Vernon,