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First-year orientation event violates COVID-19 policies

Administrators apologize for the gathering of over 100 students on Mills Lawn

Social Distancing Iluustration
Graphic by Francisco Wang Yu

On Sep. 12, Rollins administration violated its own COVID-19 health and safety guidelines during freshman orientation by allowing a gathering of more than 30 students in one area.

Rollins’ first years were told to meet with their RCC groups and peer mentors on Bush and Mills Lawn early Saturday morning to begin their orientation. The groups of students were encouraged to spread out and include no more than 25 students per group. 

However, images on social media showed congregations of over 100 students on Mills Lawn in close proximity. 

“My group was so squished together that there was maybe one foot between each of us. I felt really scared, almost as if I were in a COVID-19 breeding ground,” said peer mentor Alec Vaughn (‘22). “It was a poorly planned and executed event all together.”

The incident lasted less than ten minutes as groups dispersed from Mills Lawn. No student or faculty member present at the orientation event have reported exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.

“We want to reassure students that, after confirming with our Wellness Center folks, this wasn’t a public health risk. Students were together for less than ten minutes on the Lawn, people were wearing masks, and it was outside,” said Leon Hayner, interim assistant vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students.

The Residential Life and Explorations staff released a formal apology regarding the incident via their social media accounts the day following the incident, taking accountability for their misstep.

“We take full responsibility for that and full ownership for that, and that is why we issued the apology the next morning,” said Hayner.

“An apology was a start,” said peer mentor John Casey (‘21). “I think being a little bit more transparent about their processes for planning these things would be appreciated.”

Hayner said that changes in planning for future events have already been made.

“We did Candlewish the next day [after orientation]. We were going to have Candlewish sort of scattered across the lawn with students in small groups, and so we sort of made an adjustment right away,” said Hayner.

The Rollins ceremony of Candlewish normally consists of the entire freshman class gathering before the first day of school in one central location; however, this year it consisted of smaller ceremonies in students’ RCC classrooms with 25 people or less.

Rollins’ Emergency Operations Committee is currently working to clarify what falls under the college’s definition of a “gathering,” and it will be including that clarification into the COVID-19 policy outlined in the recently updated Code of Community Standards.

For information regarding Rollins COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, visit

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