By: Madeline Schnieders, Managing Editor
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Newman University designated Merlini Hall as a place where students exposed to or infected with COVID-19 could quarantine.
But since then, the dorm has become a refuge for students from another nearby college as well. Since the fall semester, Newman has been hosting Friends University students who have tested positive for COVID-19 or been exposed to it and are in need of a place to quarantine or isolate, said Director of Residence Life Turner Middendorf.
Middendorf said that he and Christine Schneikart-Luebbe, Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Success, met with the Friends University Housing Director Lacey Landenberger in the summer of 2021 to build a better connection with the university on the other side of the highway.
Middendorf said that later, Landenberger reached out to him and asked if Newman had any vacancy in the residence halls. The residence halls at Friends were full, and the university was opting to rent hotel rooms for the students who needed a place to stay during COVID-19 quarantine or isolation, but it was becoming expensive.
Newman was able to offer Friends the opportunity to send COVID positive or exposed students to Merlini Hall on Newman's campus to isolate or quarantine at a lower rate than what a hotel would cost, he said.
"It's also creating some revenue for us, where those rooms were just sitting there vacant," Middendorf said. "So I think it was a win-win for both sides."
At the beginning of the fall semester, Middendorf said, there were around 15 to 20 Friends students who stayed in Merlini Hall.
"And then coming back from winter break, they needed a little bit more in January, and they had about nine or 10 students go through, and they haven't had to use it since then," he said.
President Jagger said that colleges are not required to accommodate students who
have tested positive for COVID-19 or been exposed to it. Some campuses that are able to accommodate them do so, she said, but many just send students home.
"That can be expensive if you don't live nearby, to travel all the way home," Jagger said. "This way, at least they [Friends students] could stay close by and be close to classes."
Photo: Courtesy Photo, University Relations