Returning to campus for in-person classes was bound to be somewhat of a disaster. We saw just how poorly the U.S. as a whole handled the COVID-19 pandemic; of course, opening up schools was just adding gasoline to the fire. That does not change just how disappointed and frustrated Whittier College students are with the way the College is handling having us back in person.
Imagine this: you’re coming back to campus under the assumption that the classrooms are “COVID-friendly” just to find out that, on your second day back, you’ve been within six feet of someone who tested positive for COVID-19 because the classroom was too small to adhere to ‘six-feet-apart’ guidelines. Suddenly, you’re stuck in “modified isolation” with your roommate, who was not previously exposed to COVID-19 but may be now, as Whittier College had you stay in your room with them instead of relocating you. Also, you’re still allowed to go to class and the Campus Inn — which, by the way, is another enclosed space where people are not wearing their masks and are allowed to serve themselves food. (To top it off: there is nowhere within the Campus Inn to wash your hands.) Sure, you’re vaccinated and you were wearing a mask in class, but what if you actually did contract COVID-19? You’re just going around spreading it to other students! How can isolation actually be isolation if you’re allowed to eat with others and learn with others, in small spaces that are not built for social distancing?
I said ‘imagine’ at the start of the scenario above, but that’s not as hypothetical as it may have sounded — it’s the reality of students who supposedly come within six feet of someone who tested positive for COVID-19. That was an actual student’s story, and it was their reality barely a week into the semester.
The College does have plenty of COVID-19 precautions and protocols set in place: wearing a mask, being vaccinated, filling out the health screening form, and so forth. Unfortunately, the College fails to actually enforce these rules. Is there a reason Campus Safety has driven past students not wearing their mask and have not said or done a thing about it? Sure, they were outside, but they weren’t exactly six feet apart, and there’s absolutely no guarantee that both of those students were vaccinated, considering the vaccine wasn’t fully required before the start of the semester. How many people are really filling out the health screening form daily? The College surely won’t tell us, nor will they report on the number of students who have tested positive, or are living in the COVID-19-positive locations on campus. The transparency is almost as lackluster as the enforcement of these would-be-helpful safety guidelines. Students have the right to know how high the chances of being exposed to the virus are, especially since some of us (commuters) live at home with people who are much more susceptible to illness and death. How many hospital cases, how many deaths, could trace back to Whittier College by the end of the year? We didn’t think it would happen in the U.S. when the pandemic started. We really should not be passive about this; we don’t want to contribute to COVID-19’s growing statistics, after all.
There’s just so much going on on campus right now, and none of it is good. The Health Center is closed on the weekends in the middle of a pandemic — imagine that. Students are forced to go to class if that particular class is in person; there’s no option to continue online schooling. Some commuters have to rush around to find a place to take an online class because there are just so few spaces where commuters can safely belong. There’s been so little done to ease the anxiety that students and professors are feeling. There is no reason that students have to deal with so much fear while just trying to get an education; we can do better than this. Whittier College needs to do better than this.
Featured Image: Courtesy of skincancer.org