Visiting a parallel universe: part I, the preparation

September 11, 2020

I have recently visited the parallel dimension that is the Brandeis campus and come back with a lot of new experiences. If you’re curious about what current life at Brandeis is like to an outsider, you’re in the right place. 

To give you a little background, I’m a Brandeis student, but I currently live off campus, and since all of my classes are online, I haven’t been to campus since it shut down back in March. Before my outing to Brandeis, I haven’t really been out of the house (not even to the grocery store) since Aug. 10. I am pretty sure I developed mild agoraphobia during this time: Outside seems like a place of great danger now. 

In case you didn’t know, Brandeis started doing this passport system, which is basically a simple way to understand whether you are eligible to visit campus or not, according to the Brandeis website. The website also says that you can choose your preferences such as having the website in Spanish or a Shabbat Alternative, which is pretty cool. There are three passport colors: red, yellow and green. Green means that you are all set to come on campus. In order to get a green passport, you need to do three things: complete the COVID-19 training on LATTE, fill out the Daily Health Assessment and take a COVID-19 test. Yellow means that you need to take a COVID-19 test and have one scheduled (but you have done the COVID-19 training and the Daily Health Assessment), and your passport will turn green as soon as you take the test. Red means that you are missing at least one of the three requirements for green passport status. As you can imagine, I started off with a red passport and had to get a green one before my journey into the great unknown.

Before the semester even began, as a commuter student, I was supposed to fill out a form to indicate how frequently I was planning on coming to campus. If you are planning on coming to campus three or more times a week, you have to get tested twice a week, like residential students. If you are planning on coming once or twice a week, you have to get tested once a week. If you are an infrequent commuter (such as my anti-social self) who comes less than once a week, you only need to get tested before your visit. 

I also had already done the COVID-19 training, as we were required to finish that, and I’m a good student who turns in all their work on time. In case you haven’t done it yet (which you probably should), it is a series of videos and text explaining the new rules that will be enforced on campus, the symptoms of COVID-19, etc. After most sections there is a quiz which you need to pass in order to be able to complete the training.  

So the first thing I needed to do before my visit to Brandeis was to schedule a COVID-19 test. It was pretty simple: You log in, choose the time and location (the Admissions building or the Heller School) you want and confirm your appointment. Tests are administered Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Appointments are 30 minutes long and are capped at 50 people per half-hour time slot. Since I was registering for an appointment a week in advance, I could pretty much choose whatever was most convenient for me, though I went back the day before my test, and there were still available slots. Just judging by the number of people signed up, the Admissions building testing site appears to be much more popular than Heller (though that is not surprising, who would want to climb that hill). I’m actually very impressed with how well-organized that whole process was. And most importantly, it was simple. Unlike most Brandeis websites, the Passport Portal could not be more clear and direct, which honestly is such a pleasant change from the usual mess that Brandeis websites are. 

The last thing I needed to do was the Daily Health Assessment, which students who live on campus have to fill in daily, while commuters only have to fill it in on days when they are coming to campus. It is a fairly short thing to do; it consists of six parts: Brandeis affiliation, personal information, symptoms, exposure, travel and acknowledgement statement. The Brandeis affiliation and personal information sections ask about who you are and what your affiliation is. The symptoms part asks about whether you have been experiencing any of the common symptoms of the coronavirus in the past 14 days while the exposure section asks whether you have been exposed to anyone with such symptoms or COVID-19 in the past 14 days. Travel asks whether you have been outside the “green states,” which change every two weeks. The final part of the assessment asks the student to agree to follow the Brandeis COVID-19 policies and that they are aware that they can face consequences for non-compliance. Like signing up for the test, the Daily Health Assessment was very simple and straightforward. Unless it is the first time you’re taking it, it should not take you more than two minutes to complete, which was thoughtful of Brandeis, since it is something that most students have to do everyday.  

My journey will continue next week, where I will describe my experience with getting my first ever COVID-19 test. 

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