Parties and Social Gatherings Threaten to Close Campus Doors
Many colleges and universities across the country have opened their doors to students this month, despite the fact that the nation is still grappling with an unprecedented pandemic.
In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published on their website considerations institutions of higher education (IHE) should take if they plan to open for the 2020 school year. According to the CDC, classes and activities that are conducted remotely pose the lowest risk for spreading Covid-19. The risk for spreading the virus is elevated when there is small in-person classes and activities.
While most, if not all, collegiate institutions with in-person instruction are implementing health guidelines geared towards keeping students and faculty safe, a number of schools are dealing with students who outright refuse to follow the rules.
Since the beginning of August, a plethora of pictures and videos have circled across social media revealing packed bars and parties near college campuses.
Davidson University, recently launched the “The College Crisis Initiative” which is an online database seeking to “learn how colleges and universities innovate in a crisis mindset.” The database provides a map of nearly 3,000 IHEs in the United States and their plans for school instruction during the 2020 fall semester. The IHEs include universities, colleges, and community colleges. According to the map and as of August 29, 177 IHEs will have fully online instruction, 578 will have primarily in-person instruction, and 73 will have fully in-person instruction.
The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, one of the first major schools to reopen, now back in the spotlight. After one week into the semester, the chancellor announced a complete switch to remote learning for undergraduates. The news coming after the university reported on their website the Covid-19 positivity rate rose from 2.8% to 13.6% in one week.
Doctor Rosalind Jackson, who specializes in functional medicine and has a daughter who attends North Carolina A&T, says she finds the lack of social distancing concerning, “There's so many things to consider when we're talking about our immune system, because that's what we're really talking about when it comes to COVID. Some can fight it off, others cannot. Some are carriers and others don't even know it.”
Halfway across the country, Oklahoma State University also saw students refusing to social distance or wear masks. On August 17th, the university president wrote, “Oklahoma State University is disappointed in the behaviors exhibited by some of our students… Attending large dance parties where neither mask wearing nor social distancing occurred showed a clear disregard for the protocols set forth…”
Less than an hour away at the University of Central Oklahoma, Morgan Peoples began her sophomore year and moved into her on-campus dorm. She says that despite all of the precautions taken by the school, some of her classmates believe the in-person learning may not last long.
“I know people go off campus and they hang out with other people. And some people don't take the mask thing as seriously as we probably should. Oklahoma numbers are actually rising, and they've already canceled fall sports,” said Peoples.
According to Peoples, her school has gone to great lengths to ensure safety for the students and staff, “In residence halls you have to wear a mask. Outside of residence halls, you have to wear a mask, just walking around campus. High traffic areas are being sanitized every day. If a class holds more than 20 kids, you're placed in an extended class. They've done a whole bunch. It's actually more than I thought was going to happen.”
However, Doctor Jackson is worried if colleges can maintain in-person learning, “Considering that we're expecting a second wave, and although you have those who would say that we're still in that first wave, then there comes the flu that normally happens around the latter part of this year anyway. So, it's going to be very, very challenging.”
Despite the threat of rising cases potentially sending Peoples back home, she says that as a STEM major, remote learning could be an issue, “It just hurts people because if they're more of a hands-on person, and they can't be in class and ask questions right then and there, it really doesn't help. Taking labs and sciences and math online is just super hard because if I have questions, I always have to email a teacher. What happens if I email a teacher too late? I don't get an email back quick enough and then my assignment is late.”