A student’s perspective on COVID policy, past and present

Published 1 year ago -

Caleb White, Online Editor

My freshman year was a mixed experience. With Assumption’s COVID policies adjusting this year, however, campus life has dramatically improved.

Back in 2020, the fall semester was a rough time for everyone. Because there were so few people on campus, along with students leaving in droves during October’s shelter-in-place order, there weren’t many outlets for making friends. With the limited scope of programs due to COVID policy, too, there wasn’t much engagement. I didn’t feel like a Hound.

The stricter policies were understandable, especially due to being in the height of the pandemic. It was a matter of preserving health, as without vaccines, mitigating the spread was much more difficult. It was a struggle for colleges around the country to decide effective policy – but Assumption, admittedly, had some irregularities. 

One of the biggest complaints I heard from students was being banned from visiting other dorms. I was sympathetic to their position, as staying alone in my room felt very claustrophobic. This limitation was meant to prevent COVID from spreading, but many brought up that sitting down at Taylor Dining Hall, unmasked, with a six-person friend group was in-line with the rules. 

Another common complaint was on campus exit procedure. Last year, to maintain the “campus bubble,” policy dictated that residential students were only allowed to leave for emergencies or “essential purposes,” with the latter described as preapproved medical appointments or preapproved internships and work. A travel form request also had to be submitted five days before leaving campus, and swiping your ID card at the exit gate was required. Although residential students agreed to these policies through signing the community promise, they remained controversial throughout the year. Overall, the policies helped prevent cases of the virus, but I think they also took a toll on mental health and students’ general experience.

During the spring semester, discussion between administration and the student body was crucial for improving the state of campus. One of the significant moments I remember was when RAs sent out Google forms to their residents, asking for their perspectives on current policies and their own mental wellbeing, then sending the results to admin. Fortunately, there seemed to be a response. I remember going to more activities and food trucks with my friends, and Hound Day with its petting zoo was a welcome break from the stress of the school year. I felt more school spirit and camaraderie, but it was still limited due to the small numbers and being stuck on campus. 

This year is a breath of fresh air. With travel restrictions lifted, it’s been great to go around Worcester with friends for the first time. Full-occupancy classrooms, visiting other dorms, and watching sporting events makes me feel more like a college student. The commitment to limiting usage of Zoom is also commendable, though it’s useful when students are unable to attend class for serious reasons. 

With the rate of 91 percent vaccinations among the student body, there hopefully won’t be as many serious spikes in positive cases compared to last year. My only concern lies with the usage of vaccine stickers on people’s ID cards. Page three of the Fall 2021 Safety Protocols states that vaccine stickers “will enable members of the community to identify if masks should be worn around a person granted an exemption for the COVID-19 vaccine.” As someone who is vaccinated, I believe it is still a private medical decision, and vaccination status should only be disclosed if a student feels comfortable doing so. I also haven’t seen the sticker being used in this way, as people generally don’t pay attention to other people’s lanyards. 

Regarding the mitigation of spread, off-campus parties and events are likely the most common way the Delta variant has spread on campus. As long as residential students are free to leave campus, though, I’m not sure what kind of policy could be done to limit it. I don’t think that restricting travel is the correct way to go about it, due to the mental health concerns from last year. Ultimately, I hope that the campus exit policy will remain the same, and that students going off-campus will make smart decisions for themselves and the community. 

Overall, I’m glad about the state of affairs on campus. I hope the administration of the university will continue to make prudential decisions and keep a healthy balance between mitigation policies and maintaining students’ mental health. As vaccine technology improves, a sense of freedom and belonging on campus is crucial for the Assumption community to fully flourish.

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