On Feb. 15, the Alma College athletic department announced that, starting Feb. 17, limited spectators from outside the Alma community would be permitted to attend indoor sporting events.
Every student-athlete will be allowed to have up to two parents or guardians at home contests in Art Smith Arena. These spots are non-transferable, meaning that only parents or guardians are able to utilize them. They are required to reserve their spots for upcoming games ahead of time.
Alma College students, staff and faculty are also permitted to attend home basketball and volleyball games. Only 30 campus community members are allowed into the arena, with 60 parents allowed.
The Alma College spirit squad and dance team are also allowed in the arena and able to perform when the teams aren’t occupying the court.
“When I heard that there would be a bit of spectators allowed, I was excited to be honest,” said Emma VanDeusen (‘22), a member of the spirit squad.
“We really try to hype up the crowd, which then hopefully hypes up the players. [Performing on Feb. 17] definitely felt different than [pre-pandemic], but it felt as close to normal as anything has in almost a year.”
The spirit squad performed in the bleachers at the men’s basketball game against Hope College on Feb. 17. The dance team also had their separate area in the arena, and in an effort to promote social distancing, neither group intermingled.
“My coaches, the dance team coaches, Sarah Dehring and Kiana Verdugo have all worked really hard to make sure we are in a space dedicated just to us to ensure we are kept safe,” said VanDeusen.
“With the extensive testing that is done, I do feel safe. Sports teams are being tested three times [a week], which feels like a lot but it’s to make sure we can participate in sports safely.”
The Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association voted on Feb. 12 to grant institutional discretion to allow spectators at indoor venues. Alma College athletics must follow rules and regulations set by the MIAA.
Despite the leniency granted to athletics, performing arts do not have to comply with these same policies. Dance company, theatre, choir and band performances are still not permitted to have audience members outside the campus community, as per Alma College. Instead, these events are live-streamed for parents and guardians to watch.
Some events in the arts have been able to have members of the campus community watch in-person, but others have not.
“Honestly, it’s been really difficult [because] up until this year, my family has never missed a dance concert of mine,” said Meredith Bowles (‘21).
“It’s weird not seeing them in the audience.”
Spectators being allowed at indoor sporting events but not at the performing arts has created a divide on campus.
“I’ve seen a lot of controversy, so I want to start out by saying I’m not blaming the sports or attacking the sports in any way,” said Bowles.
“I know it’s not the athletes’ fault. However, it’s personally really frustrating to me that the school didn’t even consider approving outside people to come to [performances in the arts] the same time they approved sporting events.”
Some students are wondering if allowing spectators on campus will add to the spread of the Coronavirus, as the expectations of the spectators aren’t outlined to the campus community.
“Now [that] they’re allowing parents on campus for events, are they getting tested?” asked Leo West (‘22).
“Are they even gonna be held to mask rules?”
Additionally, students are upset that sports teams are able to travel off-campus for games and matches, but students who aren’t involved in athletics are not permitted to travel more than 10 miles outside of Alma.
“Baseball can go to Louisiana, but I can’t go to my friend’s dorm room,” said West.
“I have nothing against the baseball team, but the policy that allows them to do all that is backwards.” As coronavirus cases on campus are currently low, the campus community hopes that numbers remain this way despite spectators being allowed on campus for events. If numbers remain low, the potential grows for audience members to be able to attend performing arts events in the future, and for students to be able to travel outside the Alma community.