OPINION: Don’t blame students for rising COVID-19 cases on campus



Partiers congregate on the balcony of a downtown apartment on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, in Columbia, Mo., near the University of Missouri campus. Many colleges quickly scrapped in-person learning in favor of online after cases began to spike, bars have been shut down in college towns, and students, fraternities and sororities have been repeatedly disciplined for parties and large gatherings. (Dan Shular/Missourian via AP)

College students must accept the fact that their year will have limitations on how they can socialize. The traditional welcome weeks and orientations will be reimagined to adhere to guidelines.

Dorm residents are encouraged to stay in their dorms and limit their interactions as much as possible. After being in quarantine for six months, many are eager to connect with others, not wanting to stay away. The temptation of being in a condensed space with other socially starved students may be too overwhelming. 

DePaul launched “Take Care DePaul” to encourage individual safety practices that contribute to community safety. 

DePaul takes COVID compliance very seriously and we encourage students to “take care DePaul, together.” It is critical that we all do our part being in an ethical and caring community and to commit to the pledge to ensure everyone’s health and safety as best we can,” said DePaul media contact Russell Dorn. 

In order to fulfill these social needs, students have turned to partying. Despite the obvious health risk, students are overcome with the urge to socialize. As much as students need to be more conscious of their actions, being on campus with other eager students is going to be too tempting. Their actions do have consequences as we see more campuses being shut down. 

However, was it a wise choice to bring thousands of social desperate students in one condensed space in the first place?

Universities may have had other motives in mind when bringing students back to campus. As we continue to evaluate how COVID-19 cases rise in colleges, we need to shift our blame from students to universities. 

In the DePaul residence halls, social distancing is being strongly enforced with the consequence that a student can be removed for not adhering to guidelines. 

“Housing and Residential Education still have a staff of Resident Advisors and Facilities Assistants who will check up on the floors periodically to ensure that residential students are following the guidelines in the common areas of the buildings as well as in rooms if they have any reason to believe social distancing is not occurring,” said Rick Moreci, director of housing, dining and student centers. “If residents choose not to follow these guidelines and this comes to the attention of our housing team, there will be consequences for those actions, up to possible removal from student housing.”

If a student were to test positive, they would self isolate in their own rooms. 

 “For fall quarter, each student has been assigned their own private room with their own private bathroom. This allows students to adhere to all of the guidelines to include social distancing and being able to easily quarantine if exposed to someone who has been diagnosed with COVID,” Moreci said. “If one of the residents were to test positive for COVID, they would need to self-isolate per the guidelines which they can easily do since they have their own room and bathroom.”

This is the same situation for many students nationwide. The University of North Carolina (UNC) Chapel Hill shut down campus after two weeks. 

“All the summer planning for this fall, and [UNC] couldn’t come up with a plan that would get us past two weeks, but if you’re going to cut it off that early, why did you even have us on campus in the first place?” said UNC freshman Susie Webb. 

UNC was one of the first universities to open campuses for the 2020-21 school year. Students like Webb, were motivated to come to campus to meet new people. 

“I don’t think it’s a good idea for any universities to be in person because it’s bringing together a group of socially starved teenagers all together in one place, and there’s no way to make sure that you can safely do that,” Webb said. “I am one of those socially starved teenagers, so you’re going to give me the decision to go on campus, even though I know it’s stupid and I probably shouldn’t be going. I’m going to want to go.” 

COVID-19 cases started to rise at UNC the weekend after moving in. Students were celebrating the school year by partying in off-campus housing such as in fraternity houses. UNC claimed that they couldn’t control these students due them not being in campus jurisdiction. 

“UNC said that there was no way to control them, but why couldn’t they have police monitor them? Gatherings of ten people or less indoors was breaking state law,” Webb said. 

Before UNC closed, they announced that they would move all classes online on August 17, which was also the same day tuition was due. 

“I mean, all universities are motivated by finances and money and everything,” Webb said. “And there’s no way to, like, say that it’s not. It was really frustrating because they actually made the call to move to online classes that Monday, Aug. 17, I believe, which was the same day tuition was due. It came out like literally an hour before your tuition hadn’t been paid, so that was a little dirty.” 

The guidelines and protocols set limitations on how students could gather. However, Webb was able to still connect with others through safe measures. After forming a bond in those two weeks, it had to come to a halt as students were forced out. 

“You do get that social interaction which is really nice. It really sucked finally making these friends and then you have to leave all of a sudden,” Webb said. “Which just really sucks and like we’re still zooming and stuff, but of course it’s not the same. It’s like going from eating every meal together almost to like just doing once a week.”

As we continue to see a rise in COVID cases at college campuses, we must reevaluate why thousands of students are risking their lives. 

The crushing feeling of loneliness forces us to make stupid decisions. However, we have to understand that universities knew there was never a plausible plan to 100 percent stop the spread of COVID-19 among students and faculty.

Bringing together thousands of students with the temptation of socialization was too overwhelming. DePaul closed down in March at less than 1,000 cases nationally, and now we think it’s “safe” to reopen at more than 100,000 cases. If universities truly had students’ safety as the first priority, they would have gone remote in the beginning. Looking forward towards 2021, we need to be remote until there is enough clearance to safely go back on campus.