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What Are Eastern’s COVID-19 Policies Accomplishing?

As students begin the fall semester, Eastern University’s campus doesn’t look like previous years.

The Coronavirus, also referred to as COVID-19, changed the world in 2020. Students were sent home to finish the 2019-2020 school year online. Over the summer, schools and universities had to decide whether conditions were safe for in-person classes to continue or if students should remain online in the fall.

While college students all over the U.S. received emails informing them of continued campus closures, Eastern students were asked to return to the university. Eastern University created policies to protect the campus from the Coronavirus; however, it appears that the university isn’t putting the student’s safety as the first priority.

According to The Chronicles of Higher Education, out of 3,000 colleges and universities, only 15 percent will continue educational studies in the online and in-person format. Data shows that a large portion of schools in the Northeast planned to use a primarily online format; however, Eastern University did not.

Students are concerned the return to campus was not decided with the student’s safety in mind, rather, the decision was made to ensure financial support from students’ room and board fees. Many colleges and universities that have opened for in-person classes have evacuated their students due to a spike in COVID-19 cases on campus. This poses the question: was the reopening of campuses for the benefit of students or universities’ finances?

Despite this question, the majority of Eastern students have returned to campus and have started classes under the added COVID-19 policies. The most recent policies sent to students on Aug. 21 require students to wear face coverings at all times, practice social distancing, and refrain from nonessential travel. While these rules appear to protect students from the virus, the university’s efforts are contradicted by their policies regarding commuter students.

Commuters are not required to get tested despite their continuous contact with the world outside of Eastern’s campus. These students are going into classrooms, public facilities, and dining areas without being regularly tested. While it is impractical to ask commuter students to be regularly tested for Coronavirus, it stirs debate if all the restrictions placed on residential students are necessary.

Even though commuter students are limited to their whereabouts on campus, they are interacting with other students and communal spaces. Despite the possibility of bringing COVID-19 onto Eastern’s campus, residential students are not even allowed to get food
off campus as it is inessential. The policies established conflict between too many rules and not enough.

No matter the opinion on Eastern’s policies, there needs to be consistency throughout. It is unreasonable to require residential students to refrain from “inessential” travel to get food and toiletries when they see their friends with the freedom to make their own decisions. While the university is attempting to protect students and faculty from the virus, there is a lack of consistency within the regulations.

Most people understand that the world in which we live now is very different from the one we lived in the fall of 2019, however, what students don’t understand is why they are paying the same amount to attend Eastern University when the college experience is not that of its full extent? Why are students paying the same rates for a dulled education and stripped freedom?

Based on the ever-changing policies, it appears that Eastern University was more concerned with students coming to campus for their money than their enjoyment and safety. Students understand that there is no “right” way to handle these circumstances in a pandemic, but they do know that Eastern University needs to be doing better.

Sources: The Chronicles of Higher Education

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