Baker University hosts Student Forum to address COVID-19 concerns

Baker+University+hosts+Student+Forum+to+address+COVID-19+concerns

With the start of the 2020 fall semester comes new rules and regulations to help stop the spread of COVID-19 on Baker University’s campus. There has been widespread confusion among students about what is expected of them and what is being done to keep everyone safe. In an attempt to provide transparency and answer questions, a Student Forum Zoom meeting was held on Sept. 3 during a time where no classes were in session.

Student Senate worked with President Lynne Murray and other upper-faculty members to prepare the Student Forum. Students were able to voice their concerns and raise questions about the way the University is handling COVID-19.

Student Senate Senior Class President, Dylan Kort, spearheaded the efforts to help students get their questions answered. Out of concern for his fellow students, he sent an initial email looping in faculty members and student organization leaders. Within the email he stated, “I think that there are aspects of things that students are missing and are falling through the cracks. I would really like to create a platform where students can voice their concerns openly to you all.”

Kort outlined the main concerns that had been presented to him. They included: a lack of uniformity from instructor to instructor, feeling as if basic safety needs are not being met, cafeteria availability, BU WiFi and uncertainties about the remainder of the semester.

President Murray began the meeting with an opening statement explaining the university’s goals for the semester. Multiple faculty members, including Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Darcy Russell, Dean of Students Cassy Bailey, Athletic Director and Advisor to the President Nate Houser and more gave updates within each of their respective areas.

The floor was then opened up for questions from the student body. Students were assured that last semester’s situation would not be repeated, as the University is now better equipped to handle the virus. Groups of students will be quarantined or isolated when appropriate, and if needed the entire school will quarantine for two weeks and then return to continue the semester. Campus will only be shut down if the state or county requires it.

Another gray area was social life. Students wanted to know what constitutes a prohibited social event and if the University could state a clear definition. The consensus was that any social event with people in close proximity without masks for a long period of time is not safe and will not be allowed on campus. The University is urging those who reside off campus, including fraternity and sorority houses, to follow these guidelines as well.

Baker University Junior Zoie Counts posed a detailed question during the meeting. It said, “Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has recently released a statement saying ‘Sending infected college students home is spreading it to their home state.’ He also mentions how the best thing to do is to keep them at the university in a place sequestered enough from other students. So, why are students being sent home to risk exposing their parents and community?”

Though her question was addressed, Counts does not believe her question was answered to the fullest. “It was acknowledged, but lacked substance,” Counts said. “Some questions were tiptoed around in a sense.”

The biggest goal for many students is to receive clear and concise information about plans and expectations and to be reassured that safety is the first priority.

“Students were asking really challenging questions which I think developed more confusion. My hopes are that they take the questions asked by the students to develop a clear plan and explanations of why certain guidelines are in place, then communicate it to everyone on campus,” Counts said.

As this pandemic evolves, so will the University’s approach to different aspects of being back on campus. Having a school-wide forum allowed everyone to be on the same page and for confusion to be cleared up. Student Senate President, Jasmine White, acted as an overall voice for the student body.

“I am happy to have upper level faculty willing to take time out of their days to address our concerns,” White said. “It is hard to predict what will happen with COVID, but it seems people are more at ease now.”