I am an incoming college freshman and while I was looking forward to meeting my roommate and interacting with my fellow students and professors, I do not feel it is safe. I will not feel comfortable being in a room with other students and professors who could very well make me a COVID-19 carrier. I believe that the risk is greater than my desire to make new friends and be part of a new community.
While I understand that buildings must be maintained, essential workers (ex. dining hall staff, custodians) must return to work, and that students would benefit from in-person education, the idea of living and attending classes in close proximity to others is unappealing to me. For example, college dorms are a breeding ground for illnesses in general due to how crowded they are. There aren’t a lot of ways to maintain social distancing in a dorm setting with at least one roommate living in the same room and at least two roommates living across the hall. Common rooms are also a source of contamination where students can come together and host group activities (ex. watching a movie, playing a game) also in close proximity.
I believe colleges should have the health of their students, staff, and faculty in mind and should not open. However, if a college does wish to open, there are changes that have to be made. For the fall semester, every student should live in a dorm without a roommate. Though more expensive, this will help students maintain the social distancing guidelines. Common rooms should be closed to students to limit the amount of close contact students have with each other. This does not include kitchenette areas, which are necessary for students to cook or warm up meals.
Changes should be made to the classrooms and lecture halls as well. Spacing the seats six feet apart in a classroom and encouraging students in lecture halls to sit in, for example, every other seat will help stop the spread. In addition, students and professors should be asked to wear masks when in class and should face repercussions if they do not. Also, the amount of students in each class should be reduced in order to reduce the spread. Though more expensive, this would keep all students, faculty, and staff safe.
I will not feel safe attending college in-person unless these changes are made. We must keep our social distance from others in order to stop the spread of COVID-19 and in order for to prepare for the better times ahead.