Opinion: Inside a U of R Wellness Room

Lane Eppenberger is a first-year student in the Johnston program at the University of Redlands.

As the University reconvened for the 2023/2024 school year, hanging over the heads of the return was the fact that the world is still dealing with COVID-19, and that there needed to be a place for students affected by it to stay. Thus, Wellness Rooms were created.

In late september, I had the experience of staying in one of the Wellness Rooms in North Hall while I was fighting multiple viral infections. These rooms are empty and available to those who are feeling sick. In order to procure one, I first needed to talk to Public Safety. I called ahead while coughing violently and requested a Wellness Room. They expressed concern over the phone and told me to head down to their office in Willis Hall. I headed there while feeling feverish and had a quick conversation with the woman running the desk. After telling her how I was feeling, she gave me two keys, one for the room I would stay in for the next six days, and one to get into North Hall where the room is situated.

One important detail to note about Wellness Rooms is they are not used solely for quarantining students. According to Leah Nepomuceno, the Associate Director of Residence Life and Housing (RLH) and Community Standards and Wellbeing, Wellness Rooms provide a vital space for other pertinent matters. Some examples Nepomuceno listed were emergency room swaps for students waiting to be relocated and areas for students to calm down if they are having a mental health crisis, among other accommodations and services. RLH runs the rooms, while Public Safety oversees administering keys to the buildings where the rooms are located.

North Hall, or at least the room I stayed in, seemed quite cold and uninviting compared to my residence in Holt Hall. It was rather bare, containing only two standard desks, chairs, and single beds. I know that this is the typical layout of double rooms, but because of how my room in Holt looked and felt before me and my roommate moved in, I was a bit taken aback. As I was at the peak of my illness, I laid down and tried to sleep, but the rest I sought eluded me. I did not bring a bed sheet with me to use which made it much harder to get comfortable. 

The author’s room in North Hall.

Since I was sick, I was required to wear a mask whenever I left the room, but I didn’t feel well enough to leave very often anyway. The only times I left the room was twice a day to get food in an Ozzi box and to use the restroom. This was also my first experience utilizing a box since I am a first-year student. I was a bit uninformed on how to use them, so I ended up having the same box for three meals straight over the course of two days. 

For anyone currently in, or thinking about using an isolation room, I suggest using an Ozzi box in order to get food to and from your room. There are also the options of the Den and the Launch if you are not a fan of the Commons as I know many people are, but I do not have the same level of freedom to eat at the Den or Launch as a vegetarian. If you are unsure about your situation, I suggest you talk to Public Safety when you retrieve a key to your temporary domicile.

Ozzi Box return machine in the Commons.

One problem I had while in isolation was dealing with the work assigned by my teachers. I missed important classes for Data Storytelling, where the in-class instruction is vital to understand the homework. Another issue I ran into was doing my Geographic Information Systems (GIS) work for a Spatial Analysis class. I do not personally own a PC, and my Macbook is not designed to run software like ArcGIS Pro, so I had to wait until I returned from quarantine to finish my work either in the library or in Lewis Hall. This made me think that academic matters could be better supported, maybe by offering hybrid options for classes that do not currently have them.

From my experience, I would like to share some recommendations on how the experience could be improved. 

  • Make information about the existence of Wellness Rooms more available. I had no idea that Wellness Rooms existed until a friend of mine stayed in one and told me about it after the fact. I’m most likely not the only one.  
  • Public Safety should give concrete information regarding etiquette around how to use the rooms upon receiving the keys. I had to ask the person running the desk about how I could get food or if I was allowed to leave the room, because this information was not immediately given when I asked for one. I think it would be incredibly helpful to learn these details from the start.

Lastly, North Hall is not great if you are a social person. In my time there, I saw a grand total of three people. I’m not the most socially active person, so this detail did not affect me very much. However, if you are an extrovert, this quarantine option might not be for you. 

The Common Room in North Hall.

One other alternative to a Wellness Room is simply going home until you are better if you live reasonably close by. Many students come from the Los Angeles area and other nearby cities and towns. I am from the Bay Area, so I do not have the luxury of being able to readily return home.

All in all, it was an experience using one of the university’s Wellness Rooms – just one I prefer not to do again. That being said, I would highly recommend a Wellness Room if you are feeling unwell in any capacity. They are a useful resource and could very well be the answer to a situation you may find yourself in.

Photos by Lane Eppenberger.

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