For the sake of everyone’s well-being, we must proceed with caution
UC Davis students received a mid-quarter check-in email on Tuesday from Emily Galindo, the interim vice chancellor for Student Affairs.
“As you think about your fall plans and upcoming class registration, please note that while no final decisions have been made, some or all instruction for all or part of Academic Year 2020-21 may be delivered remotely,” the email read.
It is difficult to come to terms with the idea of the next school year being completely online. And although the Editorial Board is composed of graduating seniors, we wholeheartedly empathize with the students who will be affected.
We support the university’s decision to continue remote instruction if that is what is safest for our students; however, we also urge UC Davis to take into consideration the negative impact that remote instruction has on students and to coordinate with health officials on how best to prepare for students’ returns. Only when there is a continued, significant reduction in deaths, hospitalizations and the infection rate, as well as an increase in available testing, should we consider taking steps to return to campus.
Christina Paxson, the president of Brown University, argued in an op-ed for The New York Times that it should be a top priority for universities to reopen and highlighted the negative impact that remote learning has on students. Paxson, however, does not recommend that students return to their campuses in the traditional sense. Even if universities reopen in the fall, this pandemic will force us to reconsider how we interact on campus.
If UC Davis decides to allow in-person instruction at any point in the next academic year, its campus must be reopened gradually and in a way that prioritizes everyone’s health, well-being and personal needs. Strict guidelines will need to be put into place to include limiting social gatherings and reconfiguring classroom spaces.
Every student and faculty member’s circumstances will be different. Professors and administrators will still have to make special exceptions for students, and they simply cannot expect every single student to come back — nor can they force them to. Some people face underlying medical conditions, need to take a break to work for a bit or simply feel unsafe in general.
We also urge UC Davis to make decisions about upcoming quarters as quickly as possible — the email sent earlier this week has, understandably, induced panic. Students have a lot of decisions to make such as signing leases, adjusting course loads and schedules to accommodate work schedules or coordinating with advisors on fulfilling major requirements.
Adhering to shelter-in-place orders is challenging enough every day, and it’s only made harder seeing when others are not as committed to public health directives. Most agree that those protesting their local governments are impeding our efforts to flatten the curve, but everyone who went to the newly reopened California beaches this past weekend is, too. Ignoring state directives, or taking advantage of opened beaches is irresponsible and puts everyone at risk of exposure to the virus. It is our collective responsibility to look out for society’s most vulnerable.
It will be impossible to entertain the idea of returning to campus if we are not taking the necessary precautions. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic cannot be understated, and what is happening at UC Davis is only a microcosm of how the pandemic is playing out on the national and global stage. Regardless of the university’s decision on reopening campus, we must implore our leaders to trust health experts and proceed with caution, knowing that moving forward will require monumental long-term planning and restructuring.
Written by: The Editorial Board