Opinion: College Communication and COVID-19

Emily Dalgleish '22 (Photo Courtesy of Maddie Neiman)

Emily Dalgleish ’22 (Photo Courtesy of Maddie Neiman)

By Emily Dalgleish, Opinions Editor 

In just a few weeks, I am supposed to travel across the country to return to Gettysburg. As of now, I don’t know when I am supposed to return, if my housing is confirmed, or even how I will be eating. Some of those details we were supposed to find out yesterday. As students, we are relying on clear, consistent communication from the College. That communication is severely lacking.

President Iuliano did send out an email yesterday without substantive plans, but promising more detail soon. This morning, Dean Ramsey sent out an email with more information intended for all students, though many students (including me) did not receive the email until hours later. Furthermore, the information in the email seems to be false or preemptive. In the email (that I had to have a friend forward me initially), Dean Ramsey explained that housing and roommates are now finalized and available in CNAV, but students are finding that the information promised is not currently there. If our school can’t send out an email to all students with the correct information on time, how can we expect it to keep us safe during a pandemic?

The email did inform us that students must sign a health agreement by this Friday ensuring that we practice social distancing and hygienic practices. Though I know students are motivated to keep themselves and each other safe, it feels unfair to sign a health agreement without knowing what this fall will look like. How will we get food and eat during quarantine and if we need to self-isolate? What happens to our classwork and academics if we test positive and have to move and isolate? What support will there be from the school if a student gets very ill? These are terrifying questions to consider, but issues we need to address and understand now, rather than when they happen.

I do not envy those who must make the difficult decisions for this fall. I appreciate taking time to make thoughtful choices over making hasty plans to meet a deadline. This situation is unprecedented, and requires complicated logistical arrangements that the College has never had to consider before.

That being said, we need to know what is going on. I, among many other students, compulsively checked my email and the website yesterday to find out details for this fall. We did not receive any real information yesterday, and some of us received no information today. If the administration was unable to make decisions by the deadline they set for themselves, they should have enough respect for students to let us know why the delay happened, and when we can expect to hear the information.

Especially with the announcement this past week that Dickinson will be entirely online this fall after they had previously announced returning in-person, students are beginning to fear that Gettysburg will do the same. The lack of timely communication and a full description of plans is not encouraging. Some students are concerned that Gettysburg will choose to shut down at the very last minute, leaving students with no other options but online classes for the semester.

Returning to campus this fall is an enormous risk for students, especially for first-years, those who have pre-existing health concerns, and those who are traveling a significant distance to return. If the school expects many students to take that risk (and pay 3.75% more to do so), we expect that the college informs us about how they will minimize that risk. Students are looking at the rising prices of plane tickets and their work schedules with concern as an ambiguous move-in date creeps ever closer. 

Faculty and professors have assured me that there is extensive planning happening and have even let me know (off the record) some of the plans the College has proposed. Why are students not hearing this information directly? Though we are thankful for our professors checking in, we should not have to rely on them to relay the most vital updates.

Students have been patient. We are not demanding to know all the details now. Alternatively, students have been willing to follow the College’s schedule for the announcements of plans, but the College has not even met that expectation. From Gettysburg, an institution that prides itself on a strong community and individualized student attention, we are simply demanding consistent, clear, and easily accessible updates.


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Author: Emily Dalgleish

Emily Dalgleish ‘22, from Boulder, Colorado, is studying Political Science and Public Policy. She plays women’s club rugby, gives tours for Admissions, and works with the Eisenhower Institute’s Women and Leadership program. Emily is an enthusiast of lakes, road trips, and podcasts.

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  1. Congratulations for providing incredibly thorough examination of the situation.
    As grad, father of 2 grads, 1 grandson, related to about 15 other GBURG grads—-advice/admonition is —-don’t come back!
    Just like you, Administration has no idea what will happen(BULL, the plague will result in shutdown mid-October latest).
    Make arrangements for on-line GBURG, or other institutions transferable—get it in WRITING from college.
    Don’t be duped. Most of. you will lose 5-12 months before gradation, unless College fully cooperates with online, courses other schools.
    College Administration is no more informed than you about what will happen: HERE IS ANSWER —-you all come back and a bunch get sick, they send you home and there will be much money angst.
    College is spending irrationally large money to bring to bring you back. Stay home. Force College to cut exoenses—-FAT Administration, too many diverse interest group expenses, skin it down to what is core of GBURG: the FACULTY..(need more philosophical balance within it).
    What a great outreach by thoughtful Gettysburgian, stay home, tell parents hold off on check writing.
    My nine grandchildren are advised likewise.
    I love GBURG and consider current Administration’s posture and outreaches a plan for ruination .

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  2. Thank you for this excellent article. I have felt the exact same way, and, for the record, I STILL have not gotten today’s email in an official capacity. I have become very disillusioned with the college and am opting to take a remote semester because it is at least a certainty that I can plan for. It feels like the college is focusing far more on the local students and neglecting to plan for the out of state students. Quite a shame.

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  3. The author is obviously very fond of Gettysburg College and is conflicted as to what course of action to take.

    I concur with Harry Buzzerd’s sage and objective advice to not return to the College until there is no risk from the virus and the so-called “Gettysburg Experience” can be in full, not half gear. There is a probability that students will be welcomed back, the contagion will get out of hand, and the students will be abruptly sent home. This will occur, obviously, after all the bills for tuition have been paid.

    Colleges are not essential businesses. Many prestigious graduate schools like to see some sort of intermediate experience before students resume classroom learning. Several months, or a year, off from college for reflection and employment might be a godsend.

    I wish the author the best luck in her decision.

    If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it.


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