September 10, 2021 | NEWS | By Isaac Yee | Photo courtesy of the author
COVID-19 vaccine mandates (or proof of exemption), indoor mask requirements, and improved ventilation systems are just some of the measures Colorado College has taken to minimize the risk of an outbreak on campus this year.
Despite these efforts, according to the CC COVID-19 Dashboards, the college recorded nine positive cases between Aug. 25 and Aug. 31 and four positive cases between Sept. 1 and Sept. 7.
The cases have led some students to question what happens if they test positive for the virus during the school year. The Catalyst spoke to two students who recently contracted the virus, and their experiences paint the picture of an inconsistent system that makes some students drop their blocks while others are allowed to continue after their professors agreed to facilitate remote learning methods.
“I just don’t think CC really thought about the fact that students would be testing positive even though they are vaccinated,” said one CC junior who recently tested positive for COVID-19 but wished to remain anonymous for medical privacy.
When contacted by CC’s contact tracers they were told to reach out to their professor to sort out a plan for attending classes. “[The contact tracer] basically said, ‘Reach out to your professor and let us know if you have any issues,’ but she made it sound like they were required to accommodate me,” the student said.
After contacting their professor, the student was told that they would be no longer able to enroll in the class. The student proceeded to call the Registrar’s Office, who was surprised that professors could deny students accommodations for the course, they said.
The 2021-2022 Academic Division COVID Protocols document on CC’s website reads that “Faculty are not required to change your in-person format to accommodate students who cannot attend classes in-person. You should refer students who request remote attendance for an entire block, semester, or school year to their faculty advisor and the Advising Hub–or to Accessibility Resources if the request is disability related.”
“There are really no procedures or anything set up for professors or students to continue their learning which is really concerning,” the anonymous student said. “It definitely shouldn’t be put on the professors to accommodate me, and it shouldn’t be put on the student to have to run around and figure out who to contact.” The student was eventually able to find another class for the block after contacting a professor they knew directly.
“If [students] test positive and their professor won’t accommodate them, they should reach out to the Advising Hub and the Advising Hub will help them find something,” said Christine Brett of the Registrar’s Office. “To be honest, I don’t know if [CC] thought that far through the policy or any actions, but we have referred students to the Advising Hub and they have helped them in that respect.”
Adam Kiem ’24, another student who tested positive for the virus, was allowed to continue his block after consulting with his professor. “Most of the transitioning to online class was done with my professor. She has been really accommodating through all of this,” Kiem said. “It definitely did not seem like anyone had really planned for this.”
In terms of housing and isolation rooms, the college stated in an email to the CC community that they “will provide isolation rooms to students who receive positive test results as needed.” The school is no longer using Bijou West as a quarantine and isolation facility according to Maggie Santos, Colorado College’s COVID-19 Emergency Manager.
The school has opted to use “a combination of on-campus and off-campus locations to support students,” Santos said. “We try to find a space that works for the individual within reason.”
“The school gave me an option to move to the supplemental apartments,” the anonymous junior said. “But they kind of didn’t want me to, because it sounded like they only had one more spot left and they wanted keep that for an off-campus student that lived in a house with only one bathroom.”
Kiem, who also lives off-campus, said that he was allowed to remain in his off-campus house despite only having one bathroom. Kiem said the school was aware of the configuration of his house, but allowed him to stay with his roommates and continue using the shared bathroom as long it was cleaned and sanitized.
In the email dated Aug. 26, 2021, the college said that they are “prepared to take care of and support students in quarantine and isolation, and our Wellness Resource Center and additional resources are available to support the mental health of our campus community.”  However, Kiem said that the response after his positive test has been “lacking.”
The school promised that a wellness officer would reach out to Kiem and be in regular contact, but he said that person has yet to contact him. Kiem said that he is relying on friends to deliver groceries and run errands.
The nature and implementation of CC’s COVID-19 policies have raised serious concerns for some students. Is the college prepared for an outbreak? Both students The Catalyst spoke to casted doubts on whether CC would be able to deal with a larger outbreak.
“My experience, other than the brief interaction with [the COVID response team] at the start, has been mostly individual,” Kiem said. “I don’t think the school is completely prepared to go back online, and I don’t think the student population is ready or willing to go back to online classes.”