Administration Listens to Student Feedback as Spring Semester Begins
After receiving student feedback, the administration made adjustments to its COVID-19 response protocols.
Students reflect on the successful Fall semester as the Spring semester begins in the orange operation phase.
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Throughout the Fall semester, Furman students held their breath, afraid of the dreaded announcement to pack and return home before the Fall semester was finished. Fortunately, that email never came. In fact, at the conclusion of the Fall semester the administration expressed its pride in Furman's student body and called the Fall semester “a success.”
While on-campus Paladin Promise guidelines did contribute to a successful Fall semester in the midst of COVID-19, some students were left frustrated with the rules. Sophomore Mackenzie Small said she found the Paladin Promise “wildly inconsistent, as it promoted some poor rule-following and confusion about what the administration wanted from us.” Sophomore Calla Pederson also shared her thoughts on the Fall semester, reflecting on how she initially thought the Paladin Promise was a good effort on administration’s part, but she “did not understand the restrictions on dining, especially in Bread and Bowl.”
In an interview on the podcast “Zoom Uni,” Associate VP of Student Life Jason Cassidy credits student feedback as one of the main reasons for increasing clarity in the Paladin Promise as well as updating on-campus guidelines. The COVID-19 Response Steering Committee and the Public Health and Safety Advisory Group also listened to student feedback and revised the Spring semester’s original plans accordingly. The new Paladin Promise updates were announced to the student body in Furman Focused emails released on Dec. 14 and again on Jan 8.
The Spring semester’s return protocol was the first look at these changes, as students made their way back to campus over the Jan. 16 weekend and began adhering to the new guidelines published by the University. A notable change is the elongated low-to-no-contact period all students are expected to follow. The Fall semester also saw a low-to-no-contact period, which only lasted 2-3 days, compared to the Spring semester, which starts with a low-to-no-contact period of 7-10 days. This period includes take-out only dining, complete PAC closure, students remaining in pods of 4 or less, and avoiding interaction with members of other pods. These protocols reflect the administration’s cautious approach to the Spring semester’s start due to Greenville’s high caseload, which is currently seven times higher than the number of cases recorded at the beginning of the Fall semester in Aug. 2020.
Furman’s Health and Safety Advisory group named the low-contact period the “orange phase” as part of the newly implemented “Campus Operational Phases.” These operational phases are based on Furman’s own data, student feedback, and other schools’ version of the same model. Ranging from green to red, with green being “normal Furman,” and red meaning a full campus-wide lockdown, the phases will help denote the severity of COVID-19 cases on campus.
The administration began the Spring semester in the orange phase, the second-most severe, due to Greenville’s high caseload and students traveling to campus who could unknowingly bring COVID-19 back with them. However, for students on campus, Cassidy mentioned in his interview that he expects Furman’s departure from the orange phase down into yellow phase after Jan. 25, when in-person classes should resume.
After the Campus Operational Phases announcement was released, some students shared their thoughts on the updated rules. Sophomore Mason Dudly sees the grab-and-go dining options denoted in the orange operational phase as an issue. Dudly shared, “It does not make sense to lock down on-campus dining, as students will travel off-campus to find better food,” which he believes increases the risk of bringing COVID onto campus.
Students returning to campus will also complete mandatory COVID-19 tests from Jan. 19-20 and again from Jan. 26-27 to help the University monitor the campus caseload following the Winter Break. Staff will also complete testing on Jan. 28. Comprehensive testing for students and staff gives both boards an idea of how many asymptomatic cases are on-campus and also allows for a baseline metric. As the semester progresses, the administration expressed its hope to resume club and varsity sports along with other campus activities.
Overall, students remain optimistic for another successful semester as many expressed their hopes of remaining within the yellow and purple operational phases. Sophomore Lana Aga summed her view of the successful Fall semester by recognizing the fault of students participating in events such as the Halloween Pub Crawl, which led to the first low-to-no-contact period, but by also recognizing that “[Furman’s] numbers were still lower than many other schools.”