Quarantine for Two: FSU’s Unacceptable Quarantine Experience


Empty fridges greeted us upon arriving in our assigned quarantine suite.

Vomit stains were visible on a wall next to a bed in another room.
Cup noodles were provided to us that clearly stated “do not microwave”. There were no bowls or cups provided to us to boil water in.
The showers in our suite had black mold on the floor.
The showers in our suite had black mold on the floor. (cont.)
The soap dispenser was completely empty, and no soap was provided to us until days later.
An empty hand sanitizer dispenser was left for us with a decorative roll of toiler paper adorning the top of it.
There were a few cans of soup in our suite, but we had no microwavable bowls or utensils to eat with.
The crates pictured above contained just about all of the food provided to us at first. Expired chips, bags of old peanut butter and jelly packets, ramen that we couldnt microwave, and some other mostly expired snacks could be found inside. Luckily we had bottled water.

-Nick Barrieau 

Before starting this year’s spring semester, I was eager to get out of my house and move back onto campus so I could start my classes. Since I’m from Connecticut, I was well aware that I would need to temporarily quarantine until the university was able to receive my negative test results, however I could have never predicted the perfect storm of mismanagement, confusion, hunger, and disgust that I would experience from quarantining at Fitchburg State. 

On Jan. 22, I arrived on campus, proceeded to the Rec. Center to get tested, moved my belongings into my actual dorm room, and then moved into my temporary quarantine room. During the process of moving my belongings into my room, I had contact with countless RAs and two of my suitemates who were also from out of state. One of those students had already received a negative test result and didn’t have to quarantine, yet had contact with multiple other students who could have potentially been positive due to the university’s own move-in procedures. While moving in, I had a conversation with Zach Cyr, who lives in the room next to mine and we discovered that for whatever reason, we were assigned to quarantine in the same room. Not only is this an unsafe and irresponsible practice on the university’s behalf, but it could have risked exposing either one of us to COVID-19, since we were from two different locations and had not yet received negative results. To make matters worse, the suite we were assigned to quarantine in had an empty room that one of us could have easily been transferred to. We questioned the group of RAs in our building handling move in, as well as multiple housing officials who all seemed to pay no attention to the fact that two individuals from different locations were placed in the same room for quarantine. We were given the explanation that it was perfectly acceptable since we lived together on campus. The problem with that is that we were arriving from two different locations and could have exposed each other to COVID-19 if just one of us was positive. What we experienced was NOT quarantine. 

Almost every aspect of our stay was seemingly completely unplanned and unorganized. After arriving and getting unpacked and unsettled at 4:30 p.m., I noticed that the suite we were placed in was in an almost untouched state from the last time students had quarantined in it. The floors were dusty and dirty, the bathrooms were disgusting, and the fridges were empty. For a suite being used to quarantine students who could be positive for COVID-19, we didn’t even have any soap in the bathroom. There were boxes of food, but I soon found out that they had also likely been sitting in the suite since the last time students had quarantined. Inside the boxes of food were a variety of expired chips and snacks, paper bags filled with grape jelly and peanut butter, cups of ramen noodles that clearly read “do not microwave”, and a few cans of soup with no microwavable bowls, plates, or eating utensils anywhere to be found. Since we were in quarantine, we couldn’t just go grab food or find someone who could help us out. 

I tried calling Housing at 4:53 p.m., but I didn’t receive an answer, which I figured would be the case since they closed at 5:00 p.m. Before moving in, Christopher Medley, the Director of Housing at Fitchburg State had sent us an email, stating, “If you need assistance during your stay, please contact University Police, 978-665-3111 and they will communicate to the appropriate office/individual who can assist you.” Naturally, since that was the only piece of information I had received, I called University Police and asked them to be put through with someone from housing who was on call. I explained that our suite had no edible food, and at that point just wanted to hear reassurance that they were working on it. At 5:07 p.m., I got a call from an RD who informed me that food was being figured out and was in the process of happening, but I was given no specific time. At 6:53 p.m. we still hadn’t heard any news on when we would be getting food of any kind, so I tried to call back the number that the RD had called me from and got no response. Once again, having no one else to contact, I called University Police once more and was told that I would get connected with someone who could help me. At 7:08 p.m., I got a call from Brooke Morgan, the head of FSU’s COVID Response Team, telling me that we would receive food by 8:00 p.m. 

Finally, after hours of hungrily waiting for some sort of food, we got a knock on the door of our suite around 8:30 p.m. with frozen microwavable meals, bread, fruit, water, and more. Excitedly, we opened our frozen meals and opened the door to our suite’s single microwave to discover an exploded meal that had most likely been sitting in there for several months. With no cleaning supplies or soap, there was nothing we could do to clean the microwave out, so we contacted Brooke Morgan, who said she would find someone to clean out the microwave or bring us a new one. 

At 8:51 p.m., there was no sign of our microwave and we were still starving, so I called back the number Brooke Morgan had called me from earlier and asked about our microwave. She assured me that someone was running it up as we spoke, and not long after, I heard footsteps running up the stairs of the building. Overjoyed to finally be able to eat, I opened the door expecting to find someone with our microwave. Luckily, our microwave was cleaned out and dropped off by a housing staff member, however we had another quarantine surprise guest: Christopher Medley, the Director of Housing. Naturally, I expected Mr. Medley may have been there to apologize to us for the food situation and poor suite condition, instead he frustratedly stated, “You do not contact UPD under any circumstances.” Naturally, I was confused, since Mr. Medley was clearly agitated and had told us in his own email to contact University Police if we needed to contact someone from housing. On top of that, Mr. Medley had never even asked who I was when opening the door, he just went right into unjustly reprimanding me for doing something I had every right to do. To make things worse, after clarifying with him that I hadn’t even called University Police for quite some time and that I was following his own directions, he just continued to repeat his previous statement. “You do not contact UPD under any circumstances after already reporting an issue.” When I could see we weren’t getting anywhere, I told him, “Sir, quite frankly it’s ridiculous that it’s almost 9 p.m. and we haven’t received any dinner.” Mr. Medley not only didn’t acknowledge that problem to me in our very one-sided conversation, but we never received an apology from him or any other housing staff member. The whole interaction was very unprofessional in my eyes and really goes to show that not only was quarantine poorly planned and mismanaged, but for some reason, the head of a department at Fitchburg State decided it would be a good idea to scold starving students who followed the exact directions he sent them in advance. 

Despite the unpleasant situation, we were finally able to eat some disgusting microwavable dinners, which almost tasted like a five star meal after waiting all night. After getting some sleep, the next morning I received a phone call from a housing staff member who was wondering where I was, since apparently I was on a list of students who never showed up for quarantine. After clarifying that I had indeed been in quarantine, my roommate Zach got the same call two minutes later. I really can’t stress how unorganized housing was throughout the entirety of this quarantine. Imagine being stuck in a jail cell on a sinking ship that also happened to be on fire, and you won’t be too far off from the way housing handled our quarantine. 

Remember when I said that the bathrooms were disgusting? Well, I still hadn’t showered because of a black substance that I was pretty sure was black mold covering the floor of the showers. Later in the day, someone from housing stopped by our suite to take a look and immediately quipped, “Yep, that’s mold.” To fix the problem, we were given keycards to access an empty suite two floors down whenever we needed to shower. It was nice to finally be able to shower, but in retrospect, our quarantine was such a circus act that it wasn’t a quarantine at all. Not only were we exposed to each other, but we were in contact with multiple people who intermittently came in and out of the suite throughout our stay. That’s not even mentioning that we were physically leaving the area in which we were supposed to quarantine in order to shower. 

I really hope Fitchburg State was able to learn from the way they handled this quarantine. No student paying in the ballpark of fourteen grand a semester should ever have to experience the dumpster fire that myself and countless others were trapped inside of. The way we were treated during quarantine, and the conditions we were subjected to were pathetic and unacceptable. I haven’t even mentioned some of the other problems students faced while stuck in quarantine, such as how someone else in my suite had vomit stains on the wall next to their bed. 

For future reference, I’m going to help Fitchburg State out by leaving them a handy list of what shouldn’t be done during quarantine, just to make it as clear as it can possibly be. First of all, make sure you have food for the students in quarantine, because it may seem strange, but humans need to eat in order to live. Second of all, there shouldn’t be health violations such as black mold in the suites that students are placed in, and soap would be a good idea to provide to the potentially sick as well. Finally, quarantine means that students should be in rooms individually, with little to no contact with each other and no contact with multiple others such as housing officials. Finally, an important rule of thumb is that if you ever happen to find yourself confronting students that you indirectly work for, don’t yell at them for your own mistakes. Follow those simple steps, and quarantine won’t be a train wreck of liabilities next time! I know it shouldn’t have been too difficult to properly handle these basic services in the first place, but maybe Fitchburg State and housing can properly handle quarantine now that they have clear recommendations written out for them.