The rise of the new Omicron variant, as well as the continued threat of the Delta variant, puts many of us at DePaul on edge. People in the Depaul community such as those unable to be vaccinated (due to allergies or other medical reasons) and the immunocompromised are finding it difficult to feel heard. While DePaul has implemented policies to help protect students and staff, these efforts are rarely enforced and are often policed by individuals. Due to the overarching anxiety regarding Covid-19, these measures aren’t enough. A large number of students returning to campus come from different states, many of which have more relaxed Covid requirements. The DePaul community cannot become indifferent about the ongoing threat of Covid-19, and must take measures to ensure the safety of all.
I commend DePaul for having classes online for the first two weeks of classes.
However, I am confused why we are not having the entire quarter online. The first two weeks of classes are already going to be completely online and the Covid situation is only getting more and more serious. We were forced to quickly move to online learning in spring of 2020. DePaul should be using the next few weeks to prepare to move back into online classes before we are forced to do so. The huge surge in Chicago and Cook County within the last few weeks makes me believe we should move completely online for Winter Quarter. DePaul at the very least provides more options, such as flex classes, to the student body.
I had two in person classes during Autumn Quarter 2021 and there were a number of things I saw while on campus that make me uneasy about returning to campus for Winter Quarter. Masking was being semi-enforced for both staff and students but there are large oversights in
many buildings. The library and student center are hotspots for people to remove masks to eat
or drink. I was appalled to see how little mask wearing was enforced in the library, notably during finals week. It is unclear when and where it is appropriate to remove your mask, especially in the eating areas of the student center. People who were not eating or drinking were doing work in the student center eating areas unmasked.
Another issue that needs to be addressed is vaccination and booster status. DePaul is requiring students to be fully vaccinated and submit documentation on Campus Connect. However, I have heard accounts that students were going to class and bragging about being unvaccinated. From these accounts the professors took charge quickly and removed the student from the classroom. But that begs the question, if they had not openly discussed their unvaccinated status, what would have been done? There needs to be a better check for who is coming onto campus and into campus buildings. There doesn’t seem to be a concrete check for this policy beyond submitting documentation to Campus Connect. This issue could be avoided altogether if classes were moved online again.
Things are becoming dire quickly. DePaul is not doing enough to make sure that students are vaccinated, as well as not facilitating ways students could become vaccinated (such as through vaccination drives). Public officials have said unvaccinated people are the continued the main hindrance in reaching herd immunity, and finally ending the pandemic. President Biden went as far as to say, “For [the] unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death.” And with the new Omicron variant unvaccinated and vaccinated people are getting infected in recorded high numbers. I know more people infected now than I did during the whole pandemic combined. We need to be doing more and we need to make decisions now.
So what can be done? If we are not going to move online there need to be more concrete policies as well as checks put into place to make sure people are adhering to them.
During the two weeks of online classes, these policies need to be put in place as well as a system to enforce them. Flex classes need to be made available for most classes as well. People should not have to interrupt their academic careers because the university they attend is not taking the proper steps to keep them safe.
My friends at DePaul have stated that they wished that their classes were online, or had the option of being online. Many classes right now do not have the option of an online class section. Depending on where you are in your academic career you may not have the option of putting off classes for later terms, so you may need to take those in-person classes now even if you are uncomfortable doing so. Only a small number of classes I have needed this quarter were offered as a flex class. We have had so much time to prepare for this new surge and we should at least have had this as an option.
I know we all want to continue a safe and comfortable environment at DePaul, but how
comfortable can we be when none of the rules are being strictly enforced and adhered to? We
We need to ask ourselves what kind of environment we want to create. As a university we have a duty to keep our students, staff, and city safe. Now more than ever we need to look at the Vincentian values DePaul is based on and truly ask ourselves, “what must be done?”