Recognizing many students are struggling with feelings of isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Compton Union Building (CUB) staff are working with campus safety experts to expand the building’s capacity for students, particularly on the fourth floor.

During a normal year, the fourth floor is one of the busiest spots in the CUB with hundreds of students gathering daily inside the various student cultural centers, the Gender/Identity Expression and Sexual Orientation Resource Center (GIESORC), and the Center for Undocumented Initiatives.

While the CUB has remained open to students during the pandemic, activity on the fourth floor has been significantly limited out of an abundance of caution. Multicultural Student Services (MSS) Director Steve Bischoff said many students are expressing a strong desire to reconnect with friends and staff.

After extensive planning and consulting with Karee Shaw, director of CUB Facilities and Operations, and Jason Sampson, assistant director in Office of Environmental Health and Safety, a limited number of students will be able to reserve space in select centers.

“It felt awesome to get out of the house and be in the center, that’s for sure,” said senior Donavyn Velez-Fucal. “The way the space is set-up with the couches gone, the chairs distanced, and with easy access to disinfectant to wipe everything down, I believe it is safe.”

Shaw said a recent survey conducted by her staff shows students currently utilizing the CUB enjoy being there and are utilizing the spaces for longer periods of time compared to before the pandemic.

“The responses indicate the CUB offers them a quiet space where they can get away from home and enjoy a different environment,” Shaw said. “They are looking for ways to get back on campus and become engaged in the community again.”

Distancing and disinfection

Sampson has been working strategically with offices and departments across campus who are hearing similar concerns from students about wanting more places to go on campus. Each area wishing to accommodate students is required to submit a Distancing and Disinfection Plan to WSU’s Risk Management Advisory Group that outlines the reasons for allowing students into spaces and the procedures they developed to prevent groupings of people. This can include, as in the case on the CUB fourth floor, implementing a reservation system, revising traffic flow, cordoning-off waiting areas, and staggering employees.

“The CUB fourth floor has workable spaces,” Sampson said. “During our visit we provided guidance for how to rearrange the furniture and limited the capacity for each room which, also influences the building’s air exchange rate.”

Sampson said his team knows there is a lot of anxiety about the presence of the virus in our community. He wants people to know some students and staff have been working safely on campus for months in places like University Recreation, Dining Services, and Housing Services.

“I want to emphasize that when people are following the safety protocols, we are not seeing any transmission of the virus on campus,” he said.

Glad to be back

Bischoff stresses there is no pressure for students to come to the student centers if they do not feel comfortable doing so. The same goes for his staff. For students who want to come, there are strict guidelines to follow.

“Students have to be careful,” Bischoff said. “They can communicate with each other, but are limited to their immediate space, must wear a mask, and stay socially distanced.”

Seating capacity in each student center is limited to a maximum of five students at any given time. Students must reserve a spot online and complete the WSU attestation form before coming. When they arrive at the fourth floor, they must be wearing a mask and check-in at a table located on the mezzanine outside the elevators.

As a student mentor in the Asian American and Pacific Islander Student Center and president of the Filipino American Student Association, Velez-Fucal said the CUB fourth floor has always felt like a home away from home.

“The center is open and inclusive, a place where you meet people that become more than friends, they become like family,” he said. “I’m excited to be able to go there again, and it is up to us students to do our part to keep each other safe so we can continue to enjoy this space.”

Shaw said plans are in the works to transform the conference room on the third floor, CUB 310, into a place where registered student organizations and CUB departments can conduct live-streaming. The equipment has been purchased and the room should be available for use at the beginning of spring semester.