Students returning to campus for the fall semester are expected to follow safety measures outlined in an email sent to students on July 31.
President Julian Schuster and The Task Force on Transition and Adaptability sent an email to students on July 31. The email discussed the safety precautions Webster University will take to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“Our employees have pledged to follow these to keep our community safe,” the email read, “and we will ask students to likewise pledge to follow this guidance in order to maintain a safe environment on campus.”
But not all students are ready to return to campus.
Katelyn Mitchell went from the University of Missouri St. Louis to online classes at Southern New Hampshire University before transferring to Webster in May. While Mitchell said she looked forward to returning to an in-person environment, she is worried Webster will not be able to enforce the safety measures.
“I think that it might be hard for certain people of certain opinions to get on board with wearing a mask, and you never know how good someone’s hygiene is,” Mitchell said. “There is so much we can’t control right now, and I would rather not risk my health and the health of those that I love.”
Besides worrying about enforcement, Mitchell also pointed to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Missouri. According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, St. Louis County has identified 12,606 cases of COVID-19 by July 31. Mitchell worried a return to in-person learning could put students – especially those with preexisting conditions – at risk.
According to the email sent to students, Webster’s staff has created safety measures with the help of public health officials. The Task Force has also looked at recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control.
“Safety continues to be our number one priority, and we will continually adapt as we learn more about ways to mitigate the spread of COVID 19,” the email read.
Webster will implement measures such as mask requirements, daily health screenings, disinfection routines, social distancing and procedures for students to follow if they test positive for – or are exposed to – COVID-19. The university will also restrict access to buildings and reduce the number of people allowed in dining areas at the Webster Groves campus.
With safety in mind, Mitchell said she hopes Webster will offer an online option for every class. She felt giving students the choice of in-person or online-only courses would be a good option for everyone. Mitchell said the option would allow students who needed in-person assistance to receive the education they need. Mitchell also said offering both options would enable some students to stay home and limit their exposure.
“Not every student has, you know, the ability to be out in public without having to worry about someone getting them sick,” Mitchell said. “There’s a lot of different factors that could go into that, and I don’t think there is going to be any way that students can focus on their schoolwork if they have to worry about making sure that no one is going to get them sick.”
According to the email, undergraduate courses are currently being evaluated to determine ways to offer each class. The university staff expects to reach a decision and update the schedule by mid-August. Graduate students can learn more about how their courses will be offered at http://news.webster.edu/academics/2020/graduate-program-changes-fall-pandemic.html.
Mitchell plans on contacting her advisor to ensure all of her classes are online. When she transferred to Webster, Mitchell hoped COVID-19 cases would “calm down” by August.
“It’s definitely a letdown,” Mitchell said, “but I think that the health and safety of others is a little more important than me feeling sad about it.”
On August 10, Student Affairs plans to host a question and answer session for returning students. An online orientation called “Gorlok and Chill” will also be offered throughout August for incoming students.
“In summary, it will be the responsibility of all of us in the Webster community to help each other maintain a healthy environment on campus,” the email read.
Students can find out more about Webster’s safety measures at http://news.webster.edu/academics/2020/safety-measures-rexpectations-returning-to-campus.html?fbclid=IwAR1B7PKeaaTIoWjEbha3FZExpTPrJSRy7AMqxLR213RaS_W3fSHCFSO3Vv0.
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Cas Waigand (she/her) is the editor-in-chief for the Journal. She is a major in journalism with minor in photography. Cas has covered COVID-19 and the 2020 general election, and enjoys writing, watching Netflix, crocheting and taking photos.