The FIU campus: spooky, quiet and extremely closed

Wednesday afternoon I made a brief – and authorized – visit to the closed FIU Biscayne Bay Campus. Though all of us – faculty and staff – had been sent to work from home more than a month ago, we could ask for special double-secret permission to return to campus if we needed to.

I had unfortunately left a couple of items in my office and asked my dean and chair if they would be OK with me returning, briefly, to retrieve them. Though it did feel a bit eye-roll worthy to do this “mother may I” routine, I’m glad I did, as I seriously underestimated how seriously the campus police were taking the closure. More on that in a moment.

On arriving, I was struck by how empty the place felt. In the area where there would normally have been hundreds and hundreds of cars, a lone blue sedan staked out a prime spot near the entrance to Academic II (the journalism building, incidentally) and under a shady tree. Outside of the occasional maintenance or construction worker, I saw no one.

The Media Hub, where my office is located, was likewise deserted, the promo video of student work in the main lobby playing on continuous loop to an audience of only dust mites and ghosts. I quickly got what I needed and left, the spookiness of the environs giving me non-COVID-19 chills despite the 90-degree heat.

I took the long way back to my car, feeling wistful for the before-times, wondering how much of these changes were truly temporary. But any moony-tinged-with-melancholy thoughts were stopped within a matter of minutes by a campus police officer.

“You know campus is closed, right?” he asked, eyeing me suspiciously.

“Yes sir, but…” I replied.

“So why are you trespassing?”

After showing him the email from the dean – which included the phrase “Use this email as permission should you be stopped by FIU Police” – he sent me on my way. I got back in my car and drove off, not sure when I would see it again.

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