More than three months after campus was closed in response to the growing threat of COVID-19, students, faculty and families waited in suspense for the University’s official plan for the upcoming semester, originally slated for an early July announcement. The silence was broken by a community-wide email from the Office of the President on June 23.
Almost a week later, this letter was followed by an overview of the University’s Health and Safety Plan, which detailed specific precautions that will be taken to prevent the virus from spreading on-campus, such as altered class schedules, assigned dining halls, limitations on large gatherings and of course, the expectation that masks are worn at all times outside housing assignments.
There was, however, one line of the new plan that caught the attention of many students and has evoked an equally unexpected response.
“ Each student will be provided with a portable chair to facilitate moving classes outside when feasible,” the statement highlighted.
Although further details are forthcoming, the portable chair concept has since become something of a cultural phenomenon at the University in just a few days. In particular, it has spawned an unprecedented new genre of memes.
At the epicenter of this is @portablechairsofvillanova on Instagram, which was created by two rising seniors just hours after the University’s plan was first detailed. The account has accrued more than 1200 followers and has made 70 posts related to the portable chair fascination. If that is any indication, students are jumping at the thought of returning to campus life, even with new regulations and policies in place.
While the individuals behind the account wish to remain anonymous, The Villanovan was able to reach out and get an idea of what has inspired the dramatic response to the University’s creative problem solving for the fall.
The Villanovan: What did you find so fascinating about the portable chair situation?
Portable Chairs of Villanova: Portable chairs, otherwise known as lawn chairs, foldable chairs, beach chairs, etc., provided endless amusement for our friend group when we first heard Villanova would be providing every student with one. The fact that they can be packed up, thrown over a shoulder and taken absolutely anywhere on campus for academic or social purposes (keeping in mind six feet of social distancing)...We believe they will transform our campus. Through this account, we have realized portable chairs have revolutionized how we look at bare ground as an opportunity to squat down and do life. Underappreciated, in our opinion, portable chairs will not only create impromptu seating for anyone on campus, but will allow for growth in a time when space is at a premium.
TV: Why start an entire Instagram for it?
PCV: We honestly were not expecting portable chairs as a solution and felt the need to make some memes. Our DMs have been filled with so many great submissions, so clearly others wanted to make some memes about it too. When reading the email, we immediately thought it was hilarious that portable chairs were brought up, alongside hand sanitizer and wipes. This school year is going to be unlike any other, and we wanted to create a positive spin. We wanted to use humor as a way to get everyone excited for the upcoming school year.
TV: All satire aside, do you think it is an adequate response on the University’s part to students’ return to campus?
PVC: We really appreciate Villanova and their commitment to keep us safe and healthy in the upcoming semester. We believe portable chairs and outside classes are unique responses to helping ensure proper distancing between students and faculty, in addition to all other precautions outlined in the Health and Safety Plan. Villanova, we can’t wait to see you in August with a portable chair in hand. Chair army unite. Also, on a more serious note, although our page is growing to unprecedented heights, we would like to also take this opportunity to promote another recently created Instagram page, @blackvillanova, that has called attention to race-related issues on campus.