Staff Editorial: The discontinuation of University-monitored protocols leads to a continuation of faulty methods of community care
Have we yet reached a level of trust within our community that ensures that everyone’s health is prioritized?
The Eagle recently reported that American University has discontinued isolation housing for students infected with COVID-19 for the fall 2022 semester. In the previous academic year, the University provided hotel rooms for infected students living on campus to reside in for five days and needed to test negative in order to leave isolation. Now, as long as the student isn’t coughing uncontrollably, they are free to enter back into the classroom and access restrooms.
The University’s inclusion of the Communicable Diseases Addendum to the 2022-2023 On-Campus Housing Agreement feels intended to evade responsibility for the unraveling of unfortunate events that may occur. With COVID-19 protocols shifting towards a “self-reporting” approach and the elimination of COVID-19 tracking, community members remain unaware of whether or not the individual in front of them in the TDR food line is infected. How confident can one be that a student will go out of their way to get tested, potentially placing their social life on pause for the betterment of their community?
Within the addendum, the University states that they will not provide amenities that go “beyond standard services provided by the Student Health Center for care” and services made generally to the AU community. For many students, however, they do not possess the class nor financial privilege to crutch themselves from potential threats to their health, especially immunocompromised students. Eliminating off-campus options for isolation leaves students with the choice of either taking initiative to dig into their finances to book a hotel room for a week, or sleep within a few feet of someone infected with COVID-19.
The University had previously told The Eagle it would start tracking COVID-19 case numbers on the tracking dashboard, but the lack of updated data leads to misinformation on the status of community spread. With common misconceptions that spread to others is a low risk, students are less likely to practice precautionary measures, especially as many rip off their masks as soon as they leave their classrooms. This leaves professors in a whirlwind of issues that concern their own health status and how that may affect their families at home or determine how their classes will be conducted. For this reason, a number of professors still conduct classes and office hours virtually or mandate that one-on-one meetings with them require a mask.
The Eagle urges AU administrators to have consistent maintenance over the COVID-19 case dashboard for AU community members to have an idea of our risk levels and to reconsider a cheaper alternative for off-campus isolation. With flu season and the common cold around the corner, many may become susceptible to contracting and spreading the virus. For the time being, to make up for the suspension of isolation housing, the University should provide remedy for the roommates of infected individuals to prevent them from health risk, such as extra masks and an air purifier.
The health of students is worth the financial investment and not something to avoid through legal loopholes.