Education

‘Random Testing’: A Look At Universities’ Pandemic Crack Down

(Photo by ROBERT CHIARITO/AFP via Getty Images)

Elizabeth Louise Contributor
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In order to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic, universities have had to crack down and make drastic changes in the way they conduct business, adding guidelines such as mandatory masks and social distancing, and in some cases mandatory COVID-19 testing for students.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that colleges and universities test students for COVID-19, encourage wearing masks, promote social distancing and the maintenance of healthy environments by cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, and encourage telework per the CDC’s website. Each university has laid out its plans to address the coronavirus pandemic on its campus, with each plan differing from the other.

For instance; Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA released their Campus Operating Plan at the start of their fall semester of 2020 in order to address how their university would contain the spread of the virus by following the health and safety regulations. In addition, the university also launched its COVID-19 response website where they list the required use of masks in all public spaces such as dorms, and academic buildings, along with recommending students maintain a distance of six feet from others.

“It’s not enforced as strictly as in other places, they’re asking people to wear masks in indoor spaces and areas, and at events put on by Student Activities,” James Black, a graduate student with Liberty University Online explained to the Daily Caller about the mask mandate on campus.

“They are not requiring students to get tested unless they have symptoms,” Black shared. “Though, at the start of the spring semester, Liberty University required all residential students to participate in class virtually for the first week, after the first week concluded they went back to residential in-person instruction.”

Speaking on the subject of virtual learning, Black explained that in his opinion he felt that this has, “given students the opportunity to engage in different forms of learning,” that they otherwise might not be used to.

While Black finds virtual learning provides students with the opportunity to be prepared for remote work in their future careers, others might see virtual learning as a drawback.

Kaleigh Matoushek, a freshman who took courses through both the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia and East Stroudsburg University described the challenges of virtual learning in an interview with the Caller.

“Everything I do has to be hands-on, in-person. I need someone in front of me, instead of sitting in front of a laptop,” she explained of her learning style.

Matoushek explained that at the moment she is not currently enrolled in university, however, she has plans to go back when classes are able to be held more in-person rather than virtually.

“Going into an all-online institution made it feel like I was setting myself up for failure because I knew my learning style and a lot of STEM science majors they’re the same way. They need hands-on to fully understand because that’s most of everyone’s career path that they’re looking to go into with STEM.”

“For me, it was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in all of my schooling,” she added.

Other universities such as the University of Scranton in Scranton, PA, Penn State University in State College, PA, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas have instituted guidelines such as mandatory COVID-19 testing.

The University of Scranton created a Royals Safe Together Plan back in July 2020 for students and faculty which details the university’s plan to address the spread of the virus and implements measures to ensure everyone’s safety.  Measures such as mandatory COVID-19 testing, as well as recommendations from the CDC for quarantining, the types of class formats, along with mask and social distancing requirements are outlined in the plan. (RELATED: How COVID-19 Could Be Forcing Colleges To Change Their Insane Financial Structures)

Makenzie Bell, a sophomore studying at the University of Scranton explained to the Caller that testing is done in groups.

“There are twelve groups of students that they randomly select and they’ll test them about every week,” she explained of the testing procedure. Bell explained that the following Monday the university sends out an email with the results of how many students tested positive and how many students are in quarantine.

“They give us the option to do either an oral test or a nasal test,” she added describing the process. “It’s really not too bad. They have testing sites set up in our gym. We’ll just go in, and they’ll take our temperature with our student ID’s.”

Penn State University notes on their website that students on all of their campuses are required to take part in COVID-19 testing 72 hours prior to their return on campus.  In addition, the university notes that from Feb. 15 to Feb. 26 they will be testing all students taking part in in-person classes, remote and online classes who live within Centre County or within a 20-mile radius from their campuses.

“Last semester we were not required to get tested, but they assigned random testing to students,” explained Emma DeMark, a junior attending Penn State University Park campus. “This semester we are required. Seventy-two hours before we go back we have to be tested, and have a negative result.”

DeMark also noted that similar to other universities, Penn State will not be having a spring break for students. However, in order to care for the students and their mental health, the university has built-in wellness days in which classes are canceled in order to give the students a break.

“There’s no classes that take place on those days, and no work is due on those days,” she explained. “It’s just day for students to relax, or to catch up on work.”

Baylor University notes on their website that there are consequences for students who miss their weekly COVID-19 tests.

“After two instances of failing to complete a weekly test, you will not be allowed to participate in University or student organization activities (All University SING, athletic events, student organization events, campus recreation sports, access to the Student Life Center for recreation, etc.) After missing three testing appointments, your WIFI access will be disabled for the remainder of the semester. After four instances of failing to complete a weekly test, you will be referred to Student Conduct Administration for disciplinary action. Disciplinary action will include a failure to comply charge, and sanctions may include a range of options up to and including suspension,” the university website reads.

The Daily Caller reached out to Baylor University but did not hear back from them regarding a comment on their Weekly COVID-19 Testing.