The administration is making plans for the coming Fall while considering information from a tool that many students are either using incorrectly or failing to use at all.
After one week of classes, university officials shared a campus-wide update including Furman University’s COVID-19 caseload, quarantine housing status and disciplinary measures, among other things. As campuses have closed across the country, Dean Jason Cassidy stated that the administration is monitoring cases on campus and the surrounding community, in hopes of identifying and limiting potential sources for disease outbreaks as the term progresses. Cassidy expressed pride in the general compliance to the new community guidelines on campus, stating, “You guys want to be here, and we think you understand what it’s going to take to make that happen.”
Cassidy also explained that the administration has formed several contingency plans to preserve the safety of the community, varying from temporary shelter-in-place orders to full conversion to online courses. Even though only one student has tested positive since the beginning of the semester and none of the quarantine space has been used, Dr. John Wheeler of the Public Health and Safety Advisory Group stressed the importance of continued behavioral adjustments on campus. Wheeler advised students to social distance, wear masks, and fill out their daily health survey, warning, “If it looks like we’re losing the effort to be safe, decisions may be made even if we aren’t reaching quarantine capacity.”
Ron Thompson, the Director of Housing and Residence Life, stressed the importance of the Health Verification Survey that Wheeler mentioned. After a student acknowledges any common symptoms of COVID-19 or exposure to an infected individual using the survey, the Earle Student Health Center will reach out, prompting a swift move to isolation housing and identification of any critical close contact with others. Thompson explained that the survey, which is found on the LiveSafe app, acts as the first step in identifying students who may have contracted COVID-19.
The Health Verification Survey is intended to provide health officials with data to inform decisions, from initial identification of infected students to enacting stricter campus-wide policies if students fail to report. Although the administration seemingly relies heavily on this data, the eight-question LiveSafe survey has frustrated many students.
A common complaint is that the Health Verification Survey is redundant, as students are required to input their class, first and last names and email address, and to specify their student or employee status each day. One student stated, “Filling out surveys is never anyone’s favorite activity, but if the LiveSafe check is to keep our community safe, it should be as convenient as possible to encourage student participation.” Another student echoed this sentiment, expressing that the inconvenience of the survey is turning people away; they suggested that a ‘No Changes Since Yesterday’ option could increase participation. Others recommended that the University consider sending daily reminders or notifications if they are serious about getting more students to fill out the survey. Still others mistakenly thought that the survey was only for students already exhibiting symptoms relating to COVID-19. One senior asked, “I saw it on the app but never heard anything about it. Should I be filling it out every day?”
The administration is making plans for the coming Fall while considering information from a tool that many students are either using incorrectly or failing to use at all. Although some members of the administration have asked for input, many students have expressed that there are not enough effective avenues for discussion regarding the changes to campus life occurring because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The question remains to how the administration plans to open those channels of communication and respond to input from all members of the Furman community as we continue to adapt throughout the semester.