Semester falls into the hands of commuters


Sam TapperEditor-in-Chief

Last semester, the uni-versity managed to make it through the 16 weeks without a shutdown due to the threat of the pandemic. However, the semester did not go without angst and concern.

At times, numbers on the university’s COVID-19 Dashboard were higher than desired, and week after week there seemed to be one common denominator: commuter students.

I have written time and time again over the course of the fall semester that the university must create a concrete plan for testing and tracing its commuter students. Many new pro-tocols and guidelines were in place for residential students at the start of this semester, such as residents being required to test every week but, a grey area seems to remain for commuter testing.

In a statement by Tracy Tyree, – vice president for Student Affairs — the same statement that broke the news of the modified first week of classes — she brief-ly mentioned the subject of commuter testing.

“We do anticipate new testing protocols for com-muter students,” Tyree said in her statement on Jan. 11. “All students who will be coming to campus dur-ing the week of February 1 are encouraged to receive a negative test before arriv-al.In the coming days, we will be sharing addition-al testing requirements and options for commuter students who will regularly be visiting campus.”

First and foremost, I would like to call to at-tention on how carefully worded the statement is. For starters, the word “antic-ipate.” To anticipate, -by definition-, is to expect, predict or identify as prob-able.

However, that does not mean everything is set in stone. Secondly, and perhaps more concerningly, the use of the word “encourage” re-garding the submission of a negative test prior to arrival on campus. To encourage, in this context, means to rec-ommend or strongly suggest — not mandate.

While all residential students were required to submit a nega-tive test and test regularly, this makes it sound like test-ing is merely optional for commuters, who, mind you, will be sharing the same campus space. This includes classrooms, bathrooms, library and student center spaces.

Lastly, the statement revealed that commut-ers would be receiving additional info on test-ing requirements “in the coming days.” According to one commuter student, they have not yet received any information outside of the original Jan. 11 email.

It is not my intention to say Tyree, or any member of the administration is being lackadaisical in this regard—they have all been working tremendously hard and deserve our respect. However, it is my intention to implore the administra-tion to have an open testing policy for commuters.

A policy that all students can understand and feel good about. While difficult and, perhaps, even expensive, it is the most surefire way to ensure the safety of all students. So, let us all test negative while we stay positive this semester.

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