Returning or coming to campus for the first time can be one of the most exciting parts of a student’s year, but this year will likely be completely different. The COVID-19 pandemic rages on throughout the world posing a threat to everyone but especially students who have come back to campus this fall.
While many are choosing to stay home to be healthier and safer, many students are still planning on returning to Gonzaga this fall, myself included. This choice was made possible because GU designed a plan to assist students in a safe return to campus.
Classes will be held remotely, hybrid or in-person and certain amenities such as the COG remain open with new socially distant guidelines. While this has its benefits, it may not be the best solution in such an uncertain and ever-changing time.
Student health should be the very first priority to the school and its decisions should revolve solely on if the student body will continue to remain safe while on campus. Personally, I feel obligated to go back to take advantage of the in-person classes. However, this need to get the most out of my money is in juxtaposition with my feelings of not being entirely sure returning to campus is a safe option.
GU created the “Student Arrival & Return to Gonzaga Guide” booklet in order to plan for students return to campus. In theory the booklet is a great guide for a safe semester, but there are some major holes in their plans.
Due to students being allowed to learn remotely, the housing requirement for first- and second-year students was removed allowing all students to live off-campus. While living off-campus can be cost effective, it can pose an issue to the health of other students as well as anyone in the Spokane area.
GU does provide certain steps on pages 6-11 of the “Gonzaga University Off-Campus Student Guidance” to help students take the correct precautions, but as many students return to see their peers and friends, social interaction will be inevitable. The off-campus housing is loosely monitored and thus I believe the rise in cases will come from mainly off-campus locations in the Spokane area.
I worry that these students will contract the virus and bring it to campus during their designated classes and infect other students, bringing with it the downfall of the Zag On campaign.
It is inevitable that at least a part of the student body will contract the virus, so we must turn to a solution that has proven to be effective so far: containment.
The plan as of now is that students who contract the virus will be isolated and kept in quarantine in designated housing, per page 12 of “Gonzaga University Student Arrival and Return to Gonzaga Guide.” The issue I find with this plan is that there is no overflow quarantine housing, should more students than anticipated contract the virus.
The end result is likely that should this happen all students will be sent home. This leads me to believe GU is not ready for a serious outbreak because there is the possibility that students will get infected at a much faster rate than they can be quarantined and the virus will not be able to be contained.
Looking at the whole situation of the pandemic in schools, GU is using a similar plan to other universities looking to reopen. GU’s hybrid course offerings are nearly identical to that of the University of Washington and the University of Utah.
University of San Diego (USD) from our very own West Coast Conference is moving to online only courses for the fall semester to prevent the spread of COVID-19 according to its website.
A neighboring university, Washington State University is also moving fully online with no in-person learning whatsoever. For the individuals who must be on campus they are not allowing gatherings of more than ten in a group, according to WSU Insider. Whereas at GU students may be in classes with more than 10 students in one room.
Most schools are approaching Fall 2020 from only remote or hybrid learning environments to provide the best possible solutions for students.
I personally feel that hybrid learning and bringing students to campus will lead to a rise of COVID-19 cases at GU and in the community because there will always be those students who do not follow the guidelines to the T, and the pure unpredictability of the virus is not to be underestimated.
If an outbreak were to occur, I don’t believe the campus could safely contain the infected number of students in a timely manner, sending the whole student body home as well as putting us at risk while we are on campus. With this being a feasible reality, I worry the money is wasted on the semester, as well as moving home safely without bringing the virus with me.
The booklet has left me with more questions than answers. There is no clarity about if students would receive partial refunds for housing and meal plans, or how GU would safely move students off campus.
The looming question in the back of my mind is if we bring everyone back to campus and a major outbreak occurs, have we just jeopardized the spring semester and thus the entire year.
These questions cannot necessarily be answered without a return to campus, but as students move back through we shall hold our breaths and see if GU was truly ready to take on the special task of keeping us safe at college during a pandemic.