COVID-19 resurgence on campus sparks student concerns

Students have been raising concerns regarding the COVID-19 situation on campus and Lawrence’s response to the issue. Since the beginning of Winter Term, the university has been experiencing a spike in cases, and some Lawrentians believe the virus’ resurgence hasn’t been appropriately addressed.  

Both sophomore Rachel Hannel Leech and sophomore James Curry expressed concerns over Lawrence’s communication with students about the outbreaks on campus. According to Hannel Leech, the information she has received about COVID-19 on campus has been solely from word of mouth, which she said has led to her COVID-19-related anxieties resurfacing. Similarly, Curry said he’s learned the most about the situation through social media, especially the app Yik Yak, which sparked his concerns around Lawrence’s transparency on the outbreaks.  

“[Yik Yak] is not the best source [to receive information about Lawrence’s COVID-19 situation],” Curry said. “I understand there’s a new Shoutbox, so I’m very excited about that, but I still don’t think that’s the exact way to get information about COVID.”  

The disappearance of Lawrence’s COVID-19 tracker has similarly raised concerns among some members of the student body. Curry said that he looked for it after returning from Winter Break and was shocked to see that it was gone. He believes Lawrence should provide case numbers to Lawrentians to spread awareness of the situation. Without such information publicly available, Curry believes Lawrentians are subject to anxieties they would not otherwise be facing.  

“I see a lot of people saying they know people with COVID, but it’s not [explicitly stated anywhere] how many people [are infected],” Curry said. “Everyone’s in the dark on how […] many people have COVID [on campus], and that makes people scared.”  

Dean of Wellness Services Richard Jazdzewski said that, although the numbers are not available publicly, Wellness is still tracking reported cases and will notify Lawrence of significant changes. He encouraged Lawrentians to seek medical consultation if they are experiencing any symptoms.  

While COVID-19 has instilled anxieties in some Lawrentians, this is not true for everyone. Sophomore Niranjana Mittal said she is not particularly worried about COVID-19 on campus, even if she is not completely aware of the entire situation. She said this is because we have come to understand the virus better since its first outbreak and are therefore better equipped to combat its present spread.  

“If you would have asked me [about COVID-19-related anxieties on campus] three years ago, my answer would have been very different,” Mittal explained. “Because it doesn’t seem to be as life-threatening anymore, because it’s something that I’m [coming to see] as common […] my anxiety has definitely gone down.” 

Wellness Services continues to provide COVID-19 rapid tests to students who need them. Photo provided by Lawrence University.

Mittal said that the outbreak in the Baking and Cooking Club (BACC) Henry Loft in Colman Hall, where she lives, began shortly after Lawrentians returned from Winter Break. She estimated that about half of the loft has tested positive since the beginning of the term. In response, the residents have begun wearing masks in the loft’s common spaces and regularly testing. Jazdzewski said that Lawrence will continue to supply free rapid tests for Lawrentians via either Wellness or Campus Safety.  

However, some students are concerned about the lack of separate housing for people with COVID-19, such as Hannel Leech, who said she is worried about the virus spreading through asymptomatic roommates of infected students. She advocated for Lawrence to provide housing exclusively for infected students and their roommates to prevent further spread: individualized alternative housing.  

Curry expressed concern over Lawrence no longer requiring the COVID-19 vaccine, believing it is unfair to immunocompromised students who are at a higher risk for the virus. While the university’s website presents different locations where students can receive the vaccine, he said he does not believe this is accessible for all Lawrentians, due to the locations being off-campus.  

In contrast, Mittal said that, although she is vaccinated for COVID-19, she believes Lawrentians are entitled to their own bodies and therefore their own choices on the vaccine.  

Jazdzewski said Lawrence encourages vaccinations, although they are not required. He noted that the vaccine is no longer free but is covered by most insurance providers.  

“Lawrence University continues to research and consult on best practices related to coping with COVID-19 both during the pandemic and in the current endemic,” Jazdzewski said. “I appreciate that students continue to focus on the health and well-being on campus.”