Sept. 4, 2020 | By Tali Juliano | Illustration by Jubilee Hernandez
When I heard Colorado College was attempting to return for an in-person semester, I immediately predicted the worst. First-years would flock to CC from around the country amid a pandemic and, a month later, everyone else would too. Even with increased testing, a spread of the coronavirus on campus was likely, and a return to campus, though ideal, was a dangerous idea from the start.
On July 21, The Atlantic published an article titled, “Colleges Are Getting Ready to Blame Their Students.” This article outlined the easy path for colleges and universities to reopen their campuses, only to blame their students for a lack of social distancing once cases popped up. In reality, these institutions were setting students up to fail in a setting where cases would almost certainly spread among dorms, campus housing, and young people meeting for the first time. In fact, The Atlantic article cited a study conducted by Yale and Harvard researchers that estimated colleges would need to test all students every two to three days for campuses to safely reopen.
On Aug. 16, after a student tested positive in Loomis Hall, an email was sent out blaming this student for the quarantine and ridiculing this new student to the whole campus for not following protocol.
The email stated, “Unfortunately, today we learned that the enhanced social distancing protocols – which we expect of all students as they await their test results – were not followed. As a result, multiple people in Loomis Hall were exposed to this student, and Loomis Hall is now under quarantine for 14 days to mitigate further risk.”
Though of course everyone should do their part to reduce the spread of the virus, the language in this email placed sole blame on the student and blurred the larger situation. The college had created an environment where the spread of the coronavirus was nearly inevitable, but they chose to publicly shame students for not following protocols and blamed students for an entire dorm quarantine. As much as we all would have loved to have a normal CC semester, attend classes, and see our community members, a return to campus was a mistake.
Openly risky behavior was extremely prevalent across the country this summer and is ongoing among many age groups. As many of us realized once states began to reopen, it is impossible to expect everyone to do their individual part to stop the spread of the virus. Sure, in theory, this sounds easy — but for campus to safely reopen, administrators needed to know that nearly every single student would follow procedure, and that cases wouldn’t spread in dorms with shared bathrooms, showers, and common areas.
And to further complicate campus reopenings, researchers are finding that tests can result in false negatives if testing is done too soon after exposure — which can result in missed cases and increased community transmission.
Though we all hoped to return to campus this fall, such a return was set up to fail. This preemptive return put our community members at risk and threatened to affect the larger Colorado Springs area. This decision was undoubtedly difficult for the college to make, but it was a fantasy to believe we could safely come together at such a moment.