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University’s Response to the New Coronavirus

by Brian Rooney

Due to growing concern over the new coronavirus pandemic, Montclair State University’s president, Susan Cole, announced the decision to extend spring break one week and resume courses online, starting on Monday, March 23.

A campus-wide email was sent out on Tuesday, March 10, providing everyone all the necessary details moving forward. For example, students will be allowed to return to their residence assignments whenever they please, dining services, computer labs and Sprague Library will remain open. Select studio and lab courses were to operate on a normal in-person schedule, but that has since been changed to require all classes be taught online.

The email stated that the administration’s main goal is to reduce the number of people coming to campus, thus reducing the risk of contagion. However, according to the email, “the campus will remain open and operations will continue to function.”

Not soon after, on Thursday, March 12, the university sent out another campus-wide email informing university members that a 66-year-old staff member of Montclair State tested positive for COVID-19, having not been on campus since Feb. 28 and not experiencing any symptoms at the time.

In the wake of a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the Montclair State community, is the decision to postpone in-class meetings the most effective way to combat this pandemic since the campus will still be open to residents and require campus leaders to return to their jobs in person?

Those who are required to stay on campus have to be able to eat. Therefore, dining services are remaining open, where thousands of dishes and utensils will still be used and reused by those having to remain on campus. For student-employees and dining services staff remaining on campus to work at their jobs on campus, risk of contracting the virus is not at all being diminished.

Additionally, Montclair State Campus Recreation will continue its normal spring break operating hours during the extra week off, another location where equipment and restrooms are shared by hundreds of people throughout the day, rendering the absence of in-class meetings as a means to avoid the virus also meaningless.

Student employees at the recreation center, library and information technology still have to report to their shifts, regardless of whether they have class meetings on campus or not, along with university staff members to keep the facilities running.

Although reducing the number of people coming to campus may help to keep the number of infected people at a minimum, the areas of campus that are possibly the most susceptible to contagion are remaining open. If reducing the risk of contagion was the university’s priority, these areas of high concern would most certainly be closed.

It is understood the majority of students are commuters and campus is definitely in a drastic downturn of attendants, but the fact remains that little has been done to protect the most vulnerable parts of campus, including the students and staff who are required to be there.

If the decision to close in-class meetings and resume online was a genuine act of concern for student, faculty and staff well-being, it is a decision riddled with conditions that render it seemingly meaningless.

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