By Claire Crittendon & Taylor Viles – Editor-in-Chief & Sports Editor
While COVID-19 forced many greater Boston and MetroWest higher education institutions fully online, some, like Lasell, have stayed open despite rising statewide cases.
On October 13, NBC Boston interviewed Director of Health Services Richard Arnold and other members of the Lasell community to report our lower-than-average COVID-19 numbers. The story, by Alysha Palumbo, can be found on nbcnews.com.
Students on campus shared thoughts on how the school has handled COVID-19 testing and whether they feel safe on campus.
Senior business management major and Class of 2021 VP Amanda Hawkes explained, “What’s happening is with the holiday around the corner and so many schools closing after Thanksgiving, the testing lab we use is backed up with the increase in tests so they aren’t able to update the dashboard as quickly as they’ve been able to. So I hear on campus that [when] someone tests positive, it’s not updated right away because the results are delayed so they have to call the student first and get it all situated.”
“I would say that even though I wish it could be more transparent that they’re doing the best given the high stakes of the situation. After talking to Rich Arnold about everything I do feel more at ease and I think they’re doing the best they can without trying to scare us,” said Hawkes.
“Though the guidelines can feel strict at times, they do keep us safe and allow us to keep living on campus,” said senior entrepreneurship Mathieu Ouellet. Ouellet added the atmosphere on campus since September hasn’t changed “except for some students realizing that the regulations are serious.”
If there was one thing he could change, it would be the communication between the school and the students regarding numbers. “The only way to find out is to go check the website, they do not send any emails regarding that,” said Ouellet.
Boston College made headlines for a campus COVID-19 outbreak according to an article written by GBH in September.
Being a larger school with an emphasis on hands-on learning, 90 percent of the school’s undergraduate population (9000+) opted to return in-person. This was according to Special Assistant to the Provost at Boston College Adam Krueckeberg. He also said how most of the students who decided not to return are international students who had problems with their travel plans.
The numbers of on-campus students at the graduate level varies much more frequently as Krueckeberg explained. “At the graduate level, in-person numbers vary much more widely: on one end of the spectrum some programs, like our advanced nursing degrees, are almost 100 percent in-person. At the other end, our Masters of Social Work program elected to go fully remote -most are somewhere in between.”
Since the mid-September story was written, positives tests have increased to 440, trailing only Boston University’s 572 as of December 6. Krueckeberg explained how the school handled testing. “Members of our community are asked to test on a frequency that depends on their on-campus interaction,” he said. “As you’d expect, undergraduate residential students and high-touch staff members (RAs, dining services, etc.) are tested most frequently.”
Although positive tests have been increasing, Krueckeberg is optimistic about how students on campus have handled themselves. “Overall, we’ve seen a high level of compliance – students understand how important this is, and they encourage one another to act appropriately.”
Simmons University Provost Russell Pinizzotto spoke with us on November 13 to discuss the current state of Simmon’s campus. As of December 6, Simmons was reporting eight positive cases.
For the fall semester, the only students residing on Simmons’ campus are physical therapy majors. All other students are completing their studies online.
To combat this, Simmons developed “what was called “studio in a box” and shipped [it] out. I think 100, almost 200 [went out] to our faculty,” said Pinizzotto. “That included high-resolution cameras, high-resolution microphones, backdrops, lighting, all the hardware to hook all that up to your computer, so that faculty could do high-quality video, and get all that stuff ready for their class.”
Athletic competition has been halted for Simmons, though Pinizzotto said, “I think the sports teams actually are working out together virtually, with their coaches. Some of that is still going on as far as trying to stay in shape.”
The start date of Simmons’ spring semester has been pushed back to February 1. Spring break has been eliminated, but three-and-four-day weekends have been scattered throughout the semester.
Bentley University junior Owen Harnish said, “testing transparency is very good [at Bentley.] They have an online dashboard that shows the aggregate test results for each day with positives separated by on-campus student, commuter student, and faculty/staff and with how many people are isolated or quarantined.”
However, Harnish couldn’t say the same for communication around policy changes. “[The administration] notify by email without giving any advance notice. For example, policy changes get put in place at 6 p.m. on a Thursday effective immediately. There have also been some unexplained inconsistencies in policy with one dorm building having considerably less strict capacity rules announced by the RA for no clear reason.”
Emerson College junior Audrey Labonte is very pleased with Emerson’s handling of COVID-19. According to Labonte, all Emerson students are required to use an app to keep track of testing, symptoms and test results.
“A lot of all of our classes got cut down in time. Normally they are like an hour and 50 minutes, now I think they’re like an hour and 35,” said Labonte. This shift was to avoid large groups of students entering and exiting academic buildings at the same time.
Lasell strives to stay safe
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country, colleges like Lasell remain open and continue to work to create a safe campus for its students.
As of December 3, Lasell had a total of 42 positive tests, with 12 in the past week according to the COVID-19 dashboard.
A schoolwide email from Henry Pugh on behalf of President Alexander sent after the return from Thanksgiving break read, “While the increase in recent cases is concerning, it should be comforting to hear that we have been able to manage all cases to date quickly and appropriately….I am proud to say that so far, we have done a marvelous job of keeping our community safe”