There’s a full moon in the sky, a crisp fall chill, the excitement of a Saturday night, and because of daylight saving time, the promise of an extra hour of sleep the next day hangs in the air. It’s Halloween 2020, and students stream out of their dorms in elaborate costumes adorned with capes and hats and face masks. But, of course, it’s Halloween 2020, so instead of those face masks being Frankenstein or the Joker, they will be blue and surgical.
Halloween at Tufts this year will be different than it was in years past due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Members of the Tufts community and administration are attempting to keep events small and safe this weekend, which is normally known for its raucous parties, to ensure the health and safety of Tufts students.
This year, residential assistants (RAs) are planning more elaborate activities to provide safe ways for students to make this Halloween special. Anna Ehrlich, the graduate residence life coordinator (ARLC) of Miller and Houston Halls, has been preparing for this Halloween with her staff. As the ARLC, Ehrlich’s job is to supervise and support the RAs in Miller and Houston, be a liaison of information between the Office of Residential Life and Learning and the RAs and to support students in any way possible. This Halloween, that means finding ways to keep her residents engaged in the community without endangering themselves by attending large gatherings on Halloween night.
“It’s really important for there to be programming and alternative activities, so students have things to do that isn’t just partying on their own,” Ehrlich said. “On big holidays like this, it’s always good for there to be a program planned by Residential Life in some capacities, so students have a way to engage in the community if they want to in a really easy way.”
Ehrlich and her RAs have planned lots of Halloween activities for their residential community. These events will mainly be taking place Friday, Oct. 30, because the Tufts University Social Collective (TUSC) has made several plans for students on Saturday night. Some of the activities Ehrlich has helped to organize include a trick-or-treating event within Miller and Houston Halls, a hallway decorating session and a raffle where students can win prizes by answering trivia questions and winning tickets.
Ehrlich believes in the idea of harm reduction by preemptively planning strategies to help students avoid or reduce risk instead of just preaching abstinence of any sort of social event whatsoever. She operates her staff in a way that encourages an empathetic and educational approach to public health in order to make sure students can have the best social experience possible this Halloween.
“We’re just trying to help put students on that path to be making good choices about their health,” Ehrlich said.
TUSC is also aiming to provide students with a safe social environment. Saherish Surani and Cara Dufresne are the co-executive coordinators of TUSC. They have been working hard to plan fun events for students this Saturday night.
“We’ve done researching in the past and found out that ‘Halloweekend’ is obviously a high-risk weekend for students, and we just want to make sure that we have alternative programming and programs that push back the cycle of pregaming,” Dufresne, a junior, said.
Some of the events TUSC is hosting for Halloween this year include in-person and virtual tarot card readers, a Halloween movie scene recreation event with grab-and-go bags of props and goodies, a pumpkin decorating event, a virtual murder mystery night and a virtual showing of “Psycho” (1960) and “The Nun” (2018).
Students can register for the tarot card readings on Tufts Tickets, and they can either head to the Residential Quad for their reading or log onto a Zoom. For the movie scene recreation, students can pick up a kit from Tisch roof and receive a prize for creating the best one. As for the movie viewings, “Psycho” and “The Nun” will be available all weekend long on the TUSC film series website. All of the events are free, and most will take place on Halloween night.
“I know in the past, and still now, TUSC is about building community here at Tufts, which has been a little harder to do when we don’t necessarily want crowds, but I think that our boards this year are really finding ways to push the limits and the boundaries,” Surani, a senior, said.
Though there will be many social alternatives to partying this Halloween, the Tufts administration is aware that some students will be engaging in these types of activities.
In terms of the RAs, Ehrlich says their job on Saturday night is mainly to encourage health and safety and not to seek out students breaking the rules. However, if on Saturday night an RA sees something that is clearly wrong, they will engage with students so long as it is possible to do so in a safe way.
“We’re not trying to take a policing role on campus because RAs are students, and I’m a student, so that’s not my job,” Ehrlich said. “It’s my job to uphold safety and community standards but not to seek out problems.”
Ehrilich said that she and her staff will treat this weekend like any other during the pandemic. The RA on duty will simply continue to operate in their normal capacity, since, as Ehrlich puts it, “There’s a level of enforcement that’s just not appropriate to ask of RAs because like they are sophomore, juniors and seniors. They’re students just like other students.”
Nadia Vargas, the associate director of Residential Education in the Office of Residential Life, elaborated on Ehrlich’s statements regarding safety in the Tufts dormitories. According to Vargas, the protocol on Halloween will be business as usual. RAs walking the halls, whether or not they are on duty, should interrupt inappropriate behavior if they see it occurring.
Vargas believes that staying safe this Halloween is of the utmost importance, especially because of the pandemic.
“Students, staff and faculty have worked so hard to keep Tufts open up until this point, so it’s really not worth it to ruin what is left of the semester or even school year just for one night of fun that could have been engaged with in a safer manner,” Vargas said.
The Tufts University Police Department (TUPD) will be patrolling campus on Halloween, as well. Like in years past, there will be a slight increase in the number of police officers present on campus, however, that is the extent of the holiday protocol.
According to Sergeant Duane Weisse of the TUPD, the usual Halloween safety measures will not be impacted by COVID-19. Weisse said that the TUPD will adhere to the same COVID-19 rules and regulations that they have been working with since the beginning of the school year. If a TUPD officer sees a student breaking the social distancing rules, they will have their name and student ID number recorded, and that information will get reported to the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs.
“If people are not adhering to the rules and regulations then we need to step in and talk to them about that,” Weisse said. “We have to take the measures that we need to take in order to keep people safe, and that’s what we’re here to do.”
Weisse does not foresee there being many COVID-19-related problems this Halloween.
“The students are really exemplary in what they’re doing,” he said. “We haven’t had many issues at all with COVID-19 reports from the students.”
Members of the Tufts community have been working hard to keep students safe this Halloween, reiterating the risks of large gatherings and the importance of COVID-19 restrictions in their messaging. They want students to remember the risks when celebrating this year.
“Be smart and be safe while you’re having fun,” Ehrlich said. “That applies to 100% of college life anyway, so right now being smart and being safe looks like wearing a mask and not going to large gatherings. In a normal year, it might look a little bit different, but that’s the reality of things right now.”
Vargas echoed Ehrlich’s sentiments.
“Let the focus be around the amazing things you would like to accomplish and not the things that can cause lethal impact on our campus and host communities,” Vargas said. “There will be other Halloweens. This year has been spooky enough as it is.”