Dear Campus Community,
Reported number of COVID cases on campus remain low. We have administered nearly 100 tests so far this week and as of the writing of this email there have been no positive results received. We have 14 people in on-campus isolation or quarantine.
I want to address a couple of areas of focus as we move further into the semester.
A number of students have written to express concerns over social isolation. They have asked for us to find a way for students to socialize with one other, even in some restricted way, in residence hall rooms.
Correctly, students have articulated the need to engage with their peers, especially as the academic semester gets more challenging and students seek more personal interactions. Students have also pointed out that using outdoor spaces will get harder as the weather gets colder. All of this is true.
To be honest, we are only three weeks into the semester, and we need more time to make sure we are comfortable with our ability to manage COVID on campus. However, I do think we need to explore how we might be able to expand residence hall social interactions.
I am not sure what this might look like. Some students have suggested some system of social pods that would allow students to self-select small groups of friends who would be able to spend time in one others’ rooms (kind of like extended roommates). Some first-year students suggested a system that starts with students in the same residential halls being allowed into one others’ rooms (especially in places where students are living in singles).
Whatever we do needs to fit within the principles we are using to manage COVID on campus. Our top priority needs to be containing the virus on campus. And I also realize the importance of social interactions.
Dr. Miller will assemble a team of students and will work through the Red Frame Lab to take all of the ideas we’ve received and apply design thinking to develop specific proposals. We can then work with our campus team and our team of epidemiologists to examine which of the ideas are feasible (we would be able implement them) and effective (would allow us to manage COVID on campus). I suspect any system would require more resources from the college and we can make those resources available.
I want to be cautious and honest. We can only make this shift if we can come up with a plan that we are confident will work. In other words, I hear students and we are willing to engage in a process of developing proposals with students. But, anything we do has to be done with the context of making sure we are managing COVID.
A second thing we are focused on is our COVD-19 reporting. As we said over the summer, our plans and processes would continue to evolve as we got into the semester and our dashboard is one example of that. We are working on changes to our dashboard that include things like providing actual numbers (versus the current five or fewer model) and adding information on isolation and quarantine capacity. Changes will be made and shared in the next few days.
Finally, it’s a holiday weekend and students might have the urge to travel. While we have loosened things up and are allowing travel into Granville to enjoy take out, Whit’s, golfing, running and walking, etc., we continue to limit other travel. Students who need to travel for urgent family matters should complete this form. Please know that we will ask students to quarantine when they return to campus. I ask that faculty and staff also take precautions. We saw early in the summer that holiday gatherings for Memorial Day and Fourth of July contributed to COVID-19 spread. Please be cautious and don’t gather in large groups or anywhere that distancing and mask wearing are not practiced and enforced.
Again, I know we are asking a lot. I appreciate your understanding and willingness to sacrifice some things for the privilege of others. I’m proud of our community and prouder than ever to be a Denisonian.