Editor’s Note: This is an opinion piece; the views expressed in this piece do not represent those of The Charger Times.
We are stuck in the middle of a ravenous pandemic.
That statement has become one of the most basic facts of life, right along 2+2 equals 4 and the sky is blue.
Before the spring semester began, UAH – in unison with every other university in America – began making preparations to handle this ongoing epidemic while providing the best college experience and education they could.
Achieving the right balance of preparation shares a familiarity with the Goldilocks fable – you have to get it just right, while of course trying not to get killed by ravenous creatures intent on your complete destruction. Too little preparation, of course, will result in your school becoming the hot new destination for the coronavirus. Too much, however, can deeply impact student learning in a negative way – and from an administrator’s point of view, a loss in students and precious funding.
But where does our school lie on this Goldilocks spectrum, particularly compared to other schools? Are we the cream of the crop, or the low-end laughingstock?
According to a college cases tracker run by the New York Times, UAH has had 91 cases out of 10,000 students since it was updated on Oct. 22nd. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/covid-college-cases-tracker.ht
By comparison, the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa has had a whopping 2,882 cases since August, and the branch at Birmingham had a smaller, but still whopping outbreak of 1,562 – however, it’s worth noting that 1,034 of these cases are tied to UAB’s medical programs. Even with that accommodation, though, UAH still noticeably stands out as the best virus-beating school by far!
However, what accounts for this difference?
UAH has not taken the coronavirus lightly. They have issued a near endless list of requirements, actions, and measures designed to keep the infection rates to a bare minimum. Social distancing has been implemented within buildings and inside classrooms, reducing their overall capacity. In the dining halls, restaurants, and Charger Union, seating is all but eliminated as students are forcibly encouraged to use take out only. Mandatory coronavirus tests were administered before the semester began, with random retesting still occurring today. If you’re rendered positive, I’m positive that you’ll end up in one of the rooms at the Bevill center and hotel, where UAH has set up its quarantine rooms!
The online Charger Healthcheck form has students go through a short, easy questionnaire confirming they aren’t a direct risk before entering certain classes or events. These questions must be answered every 3 days before expiring. Mask use is required when students are inside school buildings.
(for more detailed information, see the return to campus guide here https://www.uah.edu/images/return-to-campus/UAH_Return_to_Campus_guide_July_2020.pdf).
Both other schools have followed a similar guidance pattern. The differences could be attributed not to the difference in programs, but in size and scope. UAB, like mentioned above, has a medical program dealing with the virus outbreak. Tuscaloosa has a massive campus and one of the best, biggest college football teams in the country. It makes logical sense that these schools possess far more cases than here in Huntsville.
However, while our school’s virus fighting measures have been largely successful, some of them come at the student’s expense, and would be worth considering lightening up on. The main policies here, in my opinion, are regarding the food service – even as other commercial restaurants open up their dining rooms and gradually begin shifting back to normal, the school’s dining options remain severely hindered by comparison. In particular, the charger cafe had its buffet limited to carrying out two big trays, a third dessert tray, and two canned sodas – while its hefty price remains the same. While recently they have reopened the Coke machines there – a huge improvement over canned soda – and an adjoining hall has been opened as a dining room, it would be nice to see the cafeteria itself reopen, and bring the buffet back rather than two and a half trays of food. Seeing UAH’s dining establishments beginning to loosen their tight restrictions would be a pleasant sight, barring any coronavirus spikes!
UAH has seen itself successfully fend off the invading virus from its campus. It may now be time to shift our efforts towards reopening the campus in ways that are safe, effective, and even fun!