Colleges Still Making Adjustments in the Time of Covid-19
Not all college students are taking Covid-19 as lightly as recent news reports have shown. According to a September 19 Time article, college students have been fearful about COVID-19 risks on campus and believe schools are not doing enough to prevent spreads of outbreaks.
Jay-Lan Halliburton, 23, is a sixth-year student majoring in Theatre/Performing Arts at Indiana University Northwest (IUN) in Gary has no worries. He praises the work IUN has done since the pandemic began in March. “I believe that the campus is doing a great job at handling the situation. By putting procedures into place for every possible case situation, creating a system for all students and staff to abide by. As well as keeping nonstop contact with students. IUN has made it safe for all students to be able to still have their regular school routine despite the pandemic.”
As one of five major higher education institutions in Northwest Indiana, IUN in Gary has a variety of measures put in place to help ensure the health and safety of students, staff and faculty. According to an IUN press release, the school requires masks on campus, six feet social distance, and have made “investments to support mitigation testing and contact-tracing, structural modifications to physical spaces, and providing increased cleaning regimes.”
During the week of September 28, officials reported two of nine individuals received a positive result in symptomatic testing. Only one of the university's 504 total mitigation tests were reported as positive cases. “The students, faculty or staff who tested positive would have been told to isolate for 10 days (the infectious period)...A contact tracer would have then been in contact to let the person know what next steps to do and also determine any close contacts,” said Marisa Villalobos, Director of Marketing and Communications at IUN. “Anyone who is a close contact of a positive tester is asked to quarantine for 14 days,” she added.
Students, staff and faculty can keep up to with data on the University Covid-19 dashboard, which provides updates of cases throughout the Indiana University system every Monday morning.
Villalobos said IU closely monitors cases and “there is no specific number of individuals required to close down campus.”
IU’s FAQ page states that “unless you are a close contact, you will not be informed that a person in your class, residence, building, department, or organization has tested positive.” Close contact is someone “who was within 6 feet continuously for more than 15 minutes.”
Halliburton recalls receiving an email from IUN stating that there were students breaking the rules in the first few days of the fall semester. He said since then the school has “cracked down harder on the rules.”
IU has a Medical Response Team of experts led by top doctors at IU’s School of Medicine who meet daily on how the virus is spreading across school campuses. “They use their medical expertise and a variety of ongoing metrics to shape decisions regarding campus operations in a way that prioritizes health and safety,” Villalobos said.
Universities across the country who decided to have all in-person classes this fall have been experiencing higher cases of positive college students with COVID-19. . While several other universities in the area have experienced outbreaks, IUN may be fortunate because of a lack of student housing.There has been speculation that some universities who are larger and have dormitories on campus report higher COVID-19 cases, according to reports from USA Today and The New York Times. IUN is strictly a commuter campus.
There needs to be nonstop communication with students emphasized Halliburton. “I believe a lot of larger campuses are struggling due to them being larger. So not being able to handle every single situation or have eyes at every location at once.”IUN has approximately 3800 students.
When asked about this, Villalobos said “Because there are multiple factors involved in acquiring the virus, it is difficult to comment on the number of cases at another university.”
IUN sent out emails over the summer about their re-opening plans and course teaching methods Halliburton said. Some courses are full remote online, others in-person and hybrid. Fall semester resumed on August 24.
This is Halliburton’s last semester – he has one online course this fall. It does not bother him adjusting to online courses since he had taken them before. The only concern is his internet connection at home. In March, when all schools closed down and switched to online “it caught everybody off guard,” he said. “Everything just happened so fast. I couldn’t believe it myself at first.” He shared that his professors were being flexible with assignments because of this. IUN is offering students laptops and mobile Wi-Fi hotspots. During the spring, he used one of the hotspots, which are also available in the parking lot.
Even though Halliburton has an online course, he frequents campus five days a week. “I’m not really worried because of the precautions [IUN] has taken to keep everyone safe. As well as me practicing safety.”
“It feels pretty different this semester. There’s less students,” he added.
After Thanksgiving, IUN will be moving to full remote classes until February 8, 2021, according to a message from former Chancellor William Lowe on May 28. This decision was done by IU’s Restart Committee Recommendations Report, which is “being used to fully develop a phased return to campus operations,” according to IU’s FAQ page.
Most of Halliburton’s time is working at City Life Center in Gary part-time. He works mostly with children and middle age adults.At home it is just him and his mom.
“I hope we’re able to still do things normally with social distancing and following rules,” he said.