“Because almost all of Western’s classes will be conducted remotely this fall, we expect about 1,800 students on campus in Bellingham during the day, and about 1,300 students living on campus in residence halls. This compares to approximately 15,000 students attending classes on campus in Bellingham, and 4,000 living on campus, before the pandemic.”
These figures are from WWU President Sabah Randhawa in an email (see below) regarding the university’s plans for reopening on September 23rd. I equested from the Director of University Communications the exact number of students who will be enrolled since the figure of 1,800 per day on campus may not be indicative of the total number of students returning. The simple fact is that the university has no idea who might be living off-campus while taking on-line courses. A thousand or more students may move back to Bellingham just to get away from their families after 6 months.
In my last article on the opening of WWU, I expressed my concern with the lack of information from the administration on the health aspects of the partial reopening of campus. Although my preference would be that the campus be closed completely for this academic year, the methods described in Dr. Randhawa’s email to the students allayed some of my fears. That being said, stories of disastrous campus openings are growing as the University of Notre Dame, Michigan State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have had to backpedal when reality thwarted their plans after students returned to campus. Late night partying appears to play a large role in outbreaks among students in many states. (“College towns growing alarmed over outbreaks among students” - AP, 28 Aug 2020)
This is what Gregg Gonsalves, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology Yale University, writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education (read the full article below) about states like Washington with “relatively low prevalence.”
“But even in states with low COVID-19 prevalence, the situation can change quickly, particularly as students with parents in tow descend in the millions from across the country onto campuses in the coming days and weeks, reshuffling the local and regional epidemiological realities. As the summer ends and many of us in colder climates move indoors, risk is going to change as well. Thus, making plans for reopening that are based on the nature of the epidemic in July may be outdated in their optimism in October. In the context of a deadly pandemic you hope for the best but plan for the worst, not the other way around. Many colleges and universities have already moved completely online for at least the fall, even in states with relatively low prevalence. Others are taking a gamble that they can do some of the semester in person with some of their students. It’s a wager I hope they win.”
WWU has plans for an organized testing regime as the students return and as classes continue throughout the fall session. The university has reserved 160 rooms for quarantine purposes for students who test positive, but for those living off-campus the “solution” is self-isolation at their residence. Students must arrive on campus with negative COVID-19 test results taken 5-7 days prior to arriving on campus. Even then, students will be tested upon arrival before they are allowed in the dormitories and at least every two weeks thereafter. A daily health report must be submitted by all workers and students prior to attending classes or beginning the work day. Additionally, “students, employees and campus visitors must wear cloth face coverings when inside any campus building or university vehicle. An exception to this rule is when an individual is in an office or a vehicle by themselves. When outdoors on campus, cloth face coverings should be worn as well, and must be worn any time safe social distancing of 6 feet cannot be maintained.”
I urge everyone to read the more detailed email from WWU President Randhawa (see below) for additional information. You can address your concerns to President Randhawa through the Director of University Communications, Paul Cocke, at firstname.lastname@example.org.