Gettysburg Students Petition to Come Back to Campus, Others Argue Return is Unsafe

(Photo Allyson Frantz/The Gettysburgian)

(Photo Allyson Frantz/The Gettysburgian)

By Katie Oglesby, Assistant News Editor

Delaney Etzkorn ‘23 has formed a petition asking for Gettysburg College to allow students to return to campus at the end of the extended Spring Break. 

The petition outlined a number of reasons students should be permitted to return, including that campus has better internet access than rural areas that students may come from and that students with learning disabilities may struggle in online classes without their academic accommodations. 

“Following the end of spring break,” the petition reads, “we request that in-person classes resume with the option for students who may be at risk or may not feel safe to attend online from the isolation rooms that have been set up on the outskirts of campus.”

When asked about her motivations to start the petition, Etzkorn expressed frustration at the College’s lack of communication. 

“A lot of my friends felt like the school was leaving them in the dark about what was going on, and were afraid that how we feel wouldn’t be taken into account when making these decisions,” she said. “I think there are plenty of ways to accommodate students and staff while protecting them from disease but also not disrupting their lives.”

Grace Verbrugge ‘22 defended the petition, arguing that this perpetually changing issue goes beyond the College’s business hours and, therefore, requires much more communication from the college. 

“I know of students who have had to return home to domestic violence situations, international students with nowhere to go, students without money to travel and the school is unresponsive,” she said. “It just frustrates and scares me that I’m entrusting my savings and my livelihood to an institution that clearly lacks the ability to function in an emergency situation. So I want a sense of normalcy or at least a detailed plan for the future.”

Ziv Carmi ‘23, a California native, objected to this petition, saying that it doesn’t factor in the health ramifications of out-of-state students, including himself, traveling back to the College.

“It’s dangerous to go through the airports and fly,” he said in an Instagram post. “I firmly believe that Gettysburg proper is safe enough. But I am convinced that there is a large enough risk for those flying. And it only takes one. It only takes one and then the entire campus, as close knit as we are, is infected.” 

Lacey Weynand ‘22, another out-of-state student from California, noted that the petition doesn’t factor in the rest of the staff at the college either. 

“The petition does not take into account the professors and support staff who might be high-risk for the virus,” she said. “If I have to get up at 5 am to watch a live stream of my 8 am class, I’d rather that than have my professors nervous about getting sick and possibly passing it on to their own high risk family members. The campus community extends significantly farther than the students.”

Etzkorn said, “I think having the school as a point of comfort and stability can help more than having the fear and anxiety about whether or not we’ll be back this semester looming over everyone.”

440 people — students as well as members of their families and other members of the Gettysburg community — have signed the petition. The college has yet to release information as to whether classes will resume online or in person after the extended Spring Break. 

(Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story overstated the role of a student whose named has since been removed. -G. Mangala 3.17.20)

Hey Gettysburgians: Tell us how this news is affecting you and what questions you have for the college (anonymously if you’d like) in this web form.

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Author: Katie Oglesby

Katelyn (Katie) Oglesby '23 serves as the Assistant News Editor of the Gettysburgian. She intends to be an English with a Writing Concentration and Political Science double major. She is from San Diego, California, and often spends most of her free time reading or writing. She is also a fiction editor for the Mercury literary magazine.

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9 Comments

  1. I absolutely think that classes need to go online. The health of the elderly and those with preexisting conditions is more important than out college experience. With confirmed cases of COVID-19 in PA it would be safer for everyone to stay home. But I hope the college will accommodate those with poor home situations.

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  2. See op-ed https://gettysburgian.com/2020/03/opinion-gettysburg-must-prioritize-public-health-for-people-like-me/ as to why we should absolutely not have students return to campus.

    Make the petition about asking Gettysburg administration to be more responsive, communicate to us more their plan, and provide options for international students, students with disabilities, and students coming from households of domestic abuse. The frustration for this petition stems from lack of college communication and little show for a plan, which I absolutely agree with. What I don’t agree with is endangering staff, faculty, students, Gettysburg townspeople, and any traffic that goes through Gettysburg for the sake of normalcy. This petition is jumping far too many steps ahead.

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  3. I just want better communication from the school. Health and safety are the top priority, but the school is sending students away without necessarily ensuring financial support and security options for students who can’t just return home without worrying about how they’re going to pay for it or if they’re going to be safe in their own houses. For many international students, they can’t travel home because of flight restrictions. The college needs to provide more clear alternatives for these students such as the quarantined rooms on the outskirts of campus or allowing students to stay in their own rooms if that’s what they feel safest doing. We just need better communication and the opportunity to stay on campus if necessary. The college just won’t respond.

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  4. “I think there are plenty of ways to accommodate students and staff while protecting them from disease but also not disrupting their lives.”

    EVERYONE’s lives are being disrupted. There is no normal right now. No one knows what’s going to happen tomorrow. We all have to pull through this together. College employees want the students to be back as much as the students want to return and for the semester to end on a positive note for everyone. No one is intentionally trying to ruin anyone’s lives. Communication can always be better. Plans can be better. Everyone is doing their best given the circumstances.

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  5. The country is in turmoil and the College should be held responsible? NONSENSE!
    You who think campus should be opened to accommodate your self-centered interests, shame on you! The collective health of all concerned requires separation until such time the national crisis is known, contained, runs its course. Do not hold College responsible for the necessary separation—as you would surely condemn College if opened and virus runs rampant.
    Have you not read what other colleges have done? CLOSED!
    Violent homes? College not responsible. Find friendly home elsewhere, they are there, reach out, College not responsible.
    Any others homeless, reach out to College networks.
    We all are part of national crisis beyond individual inconveniences and must be adult in adjusting to it. ADJUST!
    The College might offer placement services for those truly unable to secure housing in their home areas. The alumni network is strong.
    God bless us all through this hard time.

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    • I appreciate your strong sense of doing the best for the common good. Social distancing is truly key at this moment. But as someone who has several pre-existing health conditions that make me scared for my own health as well as those around me, having to return home is a scary prospect. I would have to drive halfway across the country to leave campus, which would require me to stop in several places for gas and food and therefore exposing myself to the disease and therefore bringing it with me as I travel home. Staying on campus, away from my siblings, my parents, and my elderly and extremely vulnerable grandparents is the best option for me in this difficult time, but the college is not responding. I’ve reached out to many people and the one response I’ve received was vague and unhelpful. The college claims to be providing accommodations to those who apply but even then they don’t communicate in a timely or direct manner. I’m trying to do what’s best for the public health but in order to do that I must coordinate with the college, and they are not responding. This is my qualm with the situation. We need to come together to put plans into place at every turn to create social distancing and isolation in order to prevent the spread of this disease, but together means the college has to work more closely with their students.

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    • Well said !!!

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  6. Oh, want protection at home from family violence? Call police; don’t hang that on College.
    For those who simply do not have alternatives to staying on campus: CALL PASTOR STEVE HERR, Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church(for decades the College church). He is GBURG GRAD and he has many avenues for resolution of your issues. The church is on Chambersburg Street, near Washington Street(7-11). The church congregation includes many GBURG and seminary grads.

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  7. Entire countries are shut down. Is this really open for debate? Get real.

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