Written by Helena Mazzarella
The beginning of the fall semester is well underway, which has brought students’ return and newly implemented COVID-19 guidelines. However, as students began receiving emails from their professors entailing their individual policies for in-person classes, they quickly realized there would be no universal guidelines.
Initially, students were given strict procedures to follow before their return to campus on August 23. Per the Fall 2021 Move-In Information sent via email in mid August, it was said all students must “have either a COVID vaccine, a negative PCR test within 5 days or a negative rapid test within 48 hours of arriving on campus.” Additionally, the Dean of Students and President Docking concluded that the school would not accommodate early move-ins in order to adhere to COVID-19 protocols and maintenance needs. From that point forward, however, COVID-19 requirements shifted to recommendations and encouragement.
Kelly Truchan BSN, RN, the newest Director of Health Services at the Student Health Center, says, “The CDC sets guidelines and recommendations, and then the state follows those.” Truchan further explains that Adrian College will follow the recommendations given by the CDC and the state of Michigan; however, as of right now, these are simply recommendations which the college will encourage. Recommendations include getting vaccinated, wearing a mask in larger gatherings and staying six feet apart from those outside one’s family unit. A “family unit” being those who students are living with.
These recommendations, however, are just that— recommendations. The school has imposed practically no additional restrictions, forcing professors to dictate their own policies. Such policies have ranged wildly among professors and various departments.
Currently, the business department as a whole does not require students to wear masks in their classes. However, Megan Muzy, Junior and President of the Society of Sports Management, says that although they are not required, “The business department encourages all students to wear masks.”
On the other hand, Dr. Christy Mesaros-Winckles, Department Chair for the Communication Arts and Sciences, has tightened her classroom COVID-19 protocol, showing her students a picture of her adorable one-year-old child telling them, “He can’t be vaccinated; this is one of the main reasons I am asking you all to wear masks.” Dr. Christy admits she rewrote the syllabi for her classes five or six times, trying to find a balance between policies that were fair and also held her students accountable. Ultimately, she decided to require in-person learning with masks and allow only four excused absences. Dr. Christy says, “This is my most strict attendance policy I have ever had for teaching . . . If you are not vaccinated, you need to save those four absences for quarantine days because I want students in the classroom.”
Despite her more rigid attendance policy and classroom safety precautions, Dr. Christy recognizes the financial hardships her mask mandate entails and says, “I have boxes of masks all around my office, so if you can’t afford one, I will always have them in class for you.”
Dr. Jeffrey Lake, Professor of Biology, shares in Dr. Christy’s value of mask-wearing within the classroom. Dr. Lake says, “The thing about masking that not a lot of folks understand is that most of the protection for an individual does not come from wearing a mask [themselves]. You are protecting those around you. The way [the masks] work is that they more keep you from spreading [COVID-19] to others, rather than you inhaling [COVID-19 yourself].” While he emphasizes the importance of wearing masks in the classroom, he also colorfully describes the instances where students can’t be masked, such as staying in the dorms, eating dinner and relaxing in common areas.
Dr. Lake also recognizes it is hard to provide what he calls “good COVID control.” He says, “In a sense, we have the worst of all worlds. We are packing a whole lot of [students] into a small space, providing a lot of interaction, and yet it is an open system so [students can] spend time in town, Walmart, Meijer or go home for the weekend. This freedom allows for a lot of opportunities to bring disease back.” Regardless of these instances, he acknowledges the school’s COVID-19 numbers have been relatively low based on email updates sent by the college for the past four weeks.
Although new to Adrian College, Truchan says, “Coming from emergency medicine makes me no stranger to the frontline of the pandemic, and I know [Adrian College] has good resources and is equipped to handle anything that comes [the college’s] way.” Her “ultimate goal is to make sure all the students and staff stay safe.”