As of Wednesday, Sept. 2, 62 students on UConn Storrs campus are sick with COVID-19. That’s 1.24% of the residential population. That’s a quarter of isolation beds in use. These numbers alone should be cause for mild alarm. What should worry the UConn community more is UConn’s lack of a plan B if cases start rising quickly and residential students need to be sent home.
In the Spring, it would be hard to blame UConn for the chaos — COVID-19 was spreading quickly across the country and everyone was panicking. In retrospect, I’m sure UConn wishes they had executed certain aspects of the move-out plan differently, but it was close to the best they could do.
This time around, if (at this point we might as well be saying when) students need to be sent home, UConn has no excuses for lacking a fully fleshed out plan. Although the situation is constantly shifting, they’ve had since March to devise and put in place a contingency for the possibility that students will need to be uprooted and sent home abruptly. However, if you visit any of UConn’s FAQ pages for COVID-19, or their COVID-19 website, there is no publicly available contingency plan.
Students live on campus for a wide array of reasons. Some students are looking to escape abusive home situations. Some students literally don’t have another place to live. Some students know they will be far less successful academically if confined to their homes. These are all delicate situations which could be turned on their heads by a sudden move-out process. Even with prorated room and board refunds, it’s not a simple process to find a new apartment or living situation. Food insecure students could be hurt dramatically by a sudden lack of dining hall access.
UConn needs to get transparent and publish a detailed contingency plan. If students are sent home early due to a COVID-19 outbreak, we need answers to questions like: How will students file appeals to stay in campus housing? What support services will UConn offer to students who have been rendered homeless? Will classes be paused while students move out? How can UConn effectively social distance during the move-out process? How are community members going to be included in the decision making process rather than just informed afterwards?
We all want UConn’s reopening plan to succeed, but early signs are worrying. Students — especially low-income, housing and food insecure students — need to know what plan B is if things start going south. It’s the least UConn can do.
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