Returning to campus after T-day

By Bailey Klingaman – Digital Editor

On November 2, the COVID-19 Task Force distributed an email containing information and guidelines for the upcoming Thanksgiving Break. With resident students going home and then returning to Lasell, the announcement was meant to inform about how to keep yourself and others safe while enjoying the break. 

Since the initial outburst of the virus in March, a small group of faculty and staff have come together to form the COVID-19 Task Force. Their objective is to serve as an advisory team for situations impacted by the pandemic. But, the impact on Lasell isn’t all the Task Force is concerned with. In the email they address the students, “Your actions have an impact – as we see infection rates rising in our state and nation, the rates on our campus remain low. We must continue to remain vigilant.”

With fifteen positive tests since returning from break, Lasell is also seeing rising rates. According to Hennessey, one of the Task Force members, on November 12, “With over 22 thousand tests completed, that positive test rate is just 0.08%.  We are experiencing an upswing of cases, like the state in general, but still remain well below the averages for the state and most other colleges.” Hennessey also said that out of the total 22 positive tests as of Nov 12, only one had been contracted on campus. All 21 other cases were a result of off-campus activity. Hennessey says while Lasell is doing extremely well, it’s not doing perfectly. 

Students who signed the pledge vowing to abide by the guidelines and rules set in place to keep the community safe are adhering a majority of the time. This same praise applies to faculty and staff as well, and supports “the whole idea of coming together with other people in an academic community,” says Hennessey.

In order to maintain our low number of cases compared to state statistics, the Task Force included guidelines for student departure, travel or time at home, and return to campus. Before leaving campus, students were required to get a COVID-19 test on Monday or Tuesday to reduce the chances of bringing the virus home and putting their families at risk. They had also been advised to limit the number of people they interact with the week before departure. In the case that a student received a positive test result before leaving campus, they were  given the option to either isolate at home or on campus. 

While at home or traveling, students were encouraged to practice good personal hygiene, use hand sanitizer frequently and wear a mask. If possible, they were discouraged from attending large social gatherings and using public transportation. When returning to campus, residents were to restrict their contact with others until they had received a negative COVID-19 test result. If students had not received negative test results they were not cleared to attend in-person classes until they had. 

The Testing Center in Edwards Student Center was operating from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 29. Appointments were not necessary and walk-ins were welcome. The center continued its hours on Monday, November 30 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. All classes on Monday were held online unless students were informed otherwise. All campus gyms were closed, but Brennan Library services were available online. Academic support services through the Academic Achievement Center (AAC) were held online as well and resumed as normal on Tuesday, December 1. On Tuesday, classes were conducted as usual.

But although the Thanksgiving Recess Announcement was meant to provide clarity to the students, there arose confusion after a census was distributed to resident students. “I thought the census was really unclear because at first I felt as though it was giving students the idea that we could stay home following Thanksgiving, which was never properly communicated to us,” says sophomore Rayana Petrone. It was her understanding that students were being offered the option to move off campus for the rest of the semester.

To address the confusion, ResLife sent out an email stating that the question asking if students were returning to campus after break was not a recommendation or option available to students with in-person classes. Rather, it was meant to gather information about the small group of online students living on campus who had reported that they would not be returning.

“After we got the email clarifying that Lasell was not offering the option to all students, I was even more confused and wished that was fully explained,” Petrone says. “Returning to campus following the break is scary, and is not being done by many universities.” 

As Petrone said, unlike many colleges in the Boston area, Lasell welcomed all resident students back on campus after Thanksgiving break. According to Hennessey, part of this was due to the 15 week requirement for a semester, other colleges beginning the fall semester early and planning for departure before Thanksgiving. The other part was reliant on Lasell’s low positive-test rates.

In hopes of welcoming more students to campus next semester, in a lasting message to fortify Lasell’s motto, “it’s not about you, it’s about all of us,” the COVID-19 Task Force email says, “The health and safety of our community depends upon all of us doing our part. The care, concern, and responsibility of the members of our community, helping all of us stay safe, are reasons to be thankful, as we celebrate this holiday.”

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