Millikin, Step Up: A Call for More Communication

September 7, 2020

With schools coming back in session in the past few weeks, college campuses are already proving to be COVID hot spots. Just look at Illinois State University (ISU). According to the latest numbers from their website, the school has 757 cases after being back in session for a little over 2 weeks. (Since 8/17/2020) At one point the school had 1,023 cases.

This is bad, especially because the school is already 100% online. These cases did not come from classes or from school-related events. It came from the students, from parties, students leaving campus, and students not following quarantine procedures.                               

While looking from the outside this seems like the students’ faults, the bigger issue lies in communication and action from the institution. The students need to be properly informed on COVID procedures and data. Not only that, but the university itself needs to be more proactive and strict when it comes to actually enacting those procedures. Although their classes are online, the institution cannot drop the ball when it comes to the students’ lives. It is the responsibility of both the students and the school.

We are in a time where information is vital. Students all around feel that communication and action are lacking right now from their institution and it needs to stop.

Colleges and universities must be transparent and proactive with students when it comes to handling COVID-19. Now is not time to be selfish, secretive, or lazy. The institutions need to realize this.

“I would like to state that I do not believe that the blame lies on any one person,” reads a tweet from an ISU student who is also a  RA, “I believe that there are a lot of people doing their best with the information and resources they are given. However, with that being said, these are issues that need to be addressed. Period.”

This tweet comes from a thread complaining about how the ISU administration has handled COVID-19 in the dorms. ISU is not alone is the issue, though: frustrations are surfacing from campuses all across the country.

“University of South Carolina now has over 1,000 cases,” read a student’s tweet, “as their dashboard says, this constitutes a ‘low alert level’ meaning everything is cool, no need to worry.” This was, obviously, being sarcastic.

I could pull quotes, tweets, Facebook posts, etcetera, etcetera from thousands of students who are experiencing these struggles.

The increase in cases should be expected as schools gather thousands of students from all around the world. On the other side, in order to keep the number of cases from grossly skyrocketing, it is the duty of the university to keep communication lines open.

This means taking student complaints seriously and making the necessary changes. Inform them daily of case numbers, remind them of COVID procedures, and update them the second things change.

Before I bring this to our home base, Millikin University, I want to do a comparison of numbers. The previous schools mentioned are much larger than Millikin. Illinois State University has approximately 21,000 students. Millikin University has approximately 2,000 students.

You would think in a smaller school it would be easier to inform and contain the virus. Millikin has proven to have some struggles on that end.

The total number of cases as of Monday, September 7 are 26 positive cases. On Friday the number of cases almost doubled from the previous day (9/3/2020 at 11 positive cases). This is the second time the number of cases has doubled overnight. 

Surprisingly, many students were not aware of this. 

This is because Millikin has hidden the number of cases at the bottom of their COVID-19 page. 

Ideally, students would be updated daily on COVID numbers, but the school has decided to only update the website. Most college students are not control-freaks like me, who feel the need to check the growing number multiple times a day. Some students did not even know there was a web page updated daily or did not scroll down far enough to find the statistics. 

I informed both my sorority sisters and the staff of The Decaturian of my concerns on this. Some felt as irritated as I did, others immediately asked me to send the link to the website because they did not have it, there were even a few who did not know how quickly the number of cases had changed.

In a previous interview, Dane Lisser assured me that students would be updated via email if a drastic change occurred, but otherwise only the web page would get updated numbers. We need daily updates. Information is too vital right now for it not to be. The Decaturian has taken on the responsibility itself in sharing COVID numbers on all of our forms of social media. 

“Student journalism at its finest giving us COVID information when we have had no updates on the situation since last week,” a Millikin professor tweeted, “Thanks for your work Decaturian.”

This tweet is in response to The Decaturian’s daily COVID update. This strain in communication is being felt from across the university. 

The rules Millikin has set in place through their COVID-19 safety plan are good. They are strong. However, they don’t seem to be working because the number of cases keeps rising.

How is the school supposed to discourage students from breaking the rules when they have no idea of the numbers or the causation for the cases? Students not only need to be made aware of the number of cases but also the number of students in contact tracing quarantine. Students are taken by surprise from those numbers as well. 

Currently, 96 students are in quarantine due to contact tracing. As more and more students are pulled into contact-tracing quarantine, it is becoming more apparent that students do not know how it works. When are students allowed to leave? What if they have an off-campus job? Will someone be monitoring their quarantine? These are all questions that students keep asking. The school needs to be sending daily reminders about these.

Not only do the students not know how it works, but the university has been struggling to efficiently get out emails and keep up with the tracing. This information comes from multiple students who have expressed concerns about the contact-tracing process on campus.

Contact tracing will soon affect each and every student and many still do not know what it is or how the process works either. Both of these pieces of information need to be shared with students daily.

The fact that students have to resort to tweeting in order for their concerns to be heard is sad. Universities need to be open with communication and respect the students’ concerns as well as sharing any available information. This goes for Millikin University and all other universities. These are unprecedented times and we cannot and will not get through it if we do not work together.

 Well Millikin, here is my tweet: Keeping us informed is going to help keep us safe. Please step up.

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