Social distancing tents installed on campus not worth the money

By Kaitlin Dunn

Elm Staff Writer

On Wednesday, March 3, Washington College installed three open air tents throughout campus. The Contingency Planning Group released an update via email on March 5, stating “located on the Hodson Green, the parking lot between Queen Anne’s House and Minta Martin, and the patio by the River dorms, the tents are intended for student usage.” 

The tent in the parking lot between Queen Anne’s House and Minta Martin Hall was funded by the Student Government Association and cost approximately $4,000, with an initial budget of $5,000. 

“The other two [tents] were funded by other departments and I think they were in the ballpark of 10k-15k each since they are bigger, but I don’t think we got exact numbers on those purchases in the same way as we did for the one [the SGA] funded,” SGA financial controller Liz Hay said.

Their purpose is to promote social distancing among WC students who wish to venture outside.

Student opinions on these tents have been polarizing. While some students feel the tents are a great addition to the campus experience — offering more locations for students to congregate — others feel as though they are an unnecessary waste of school funds.  

“I personally am not the biggest fan of the tents,” freshman Ashley Kreitz said. “The one located in the parking lot between Queen Anne’s and Minta Martin in particular is an inconvenience to students who typically park their cars there.” 

Currently, the tents are not receiving much use. Due to their locations, the tents are not the most ideal places to congregate. They are not in nearly as desirable locations as elsewhere on campus, such as the campus green or the library terrace.

With the cost and the supposed lack of usage, the question persists of whether the tents were a necessary purchase.  

The timing of the implementation of these tents acts in opposition to the supposed money-making efforts of the administration, such as the push to mandate four-year housing at WC and faculty reductions, among other things. 

This opposition leads students to ask: if funds for the College are low, why spend money on something that will not necessarily be utilized to its full potential by students? 

It is no secret that WC is currently experiencing financial issues. An email from Interim President Wayne Powell sent on Oct. 28, 2020, said, “Washington College is dealing with a structural deficit, which means that expenses are exceeding revenue in the current year.” 

“I think for a school that’s currently experiencing financial issues, it’s quite frankly ridiculous to spend so much money on tents…no one uses them,” freshman Rory Miller said. 

In terms of ease of meeting for socially distanced gatherings or protection for weather, the tents have some benefits. However, the cons far outweigh the pros. The fact that WC is currently having financial issues all equates to the tents being an expense that the College could not afford. 

Featured Photo caption: WC invested in the rental of three open air tents to put on campus, hoping the spaces would encourage students to partake in outdoor social distancing. Photo by Ben Wang.

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