Opinion: College Communication and COVID-19
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.