The University Has Been Unclear in Communication About Specific Measures Being Taken
by Andrew Millman and Suresh Hanubal
As the coronavirus has spread around the globe into a major pandemic, so too has a global panic surrounding the potential ramifications of the virus, from personal implications to the deleterious effects it could have on the economy. Goldman Sachs has projected zero growth for the American economy in the second quarter and, until recently, Chinese manufacturing was at a near-standstill. Economic effects are being felt especially hard in the manufacturing, travel, and services sectors.
A global panic about coronavirus has spread around the world faster than the virus itself and unsurprisingly, Fordham, like many other American universities, is doing a poor job at assuaging the fears of students who are rightfully concerned not just about their health but how it will impact their lives. The university’s response to the outbreak will have a tremendous impact on the lives of students and a bungled response from administrators can make an already stressful situation much worse for thousands of students.
As of the time of this writing, 8th March 2020, the university has sent a series of emails on the coronavirus issue, which is certainly admirable; especially as many universities have failed to adequately communicate with students about their prospective responses and contingencies. With this being said, these emails have often been vague and have inspired more confusion than clarity amongst the student body. For example, the most recent email from the university had the header “Fordham is canceling all on-campus events, effective Sunday, March 8.” Although this is certainly a good step to take in light in face of a fast-moving respiratory illness caused pandemic, the following email fails to mention exactly what constitutes an event. This problem in relation to coronavirus is of course not unique to Fordham, as it is a rapidly evolving situation that the world has not faced in over a 100 years, however I firmly believe that universities should try to respond to the crisis with more clarity and forcefulness than they are currently doing.
While the fatality rate for college-aged students is believed to be 0.2%, the virus still poses the danger of hospitalization or quarantine for many students. It is of note that the corresponding death rate for the flu hovers around .01%, so COVID-19’s death rate is still roughly twenty times higher. More importantly, professors, who are typically much older, can be in danger from students who could carry the virus without knowing. University employees can also feel pressured to show up for work despite being symptomatic because of the university’s employment policies (although this is being relaxed in light of the pandemic).
Surprisingly, though, the university has been handling all of this mostly positively. Their main failing insofar as I see is a delay in response to the myriad of rumors concerning potential responses to the virus or incidents on campus. Again, this is not something unique to Fordham, but is still of note.
There have been rumors that the university is imminently closing, that there have been confirmed cases on campus, that the university is extending spring break, that the rest of classes for the semester will be conducted virtually, and more. These could have potentially deleterious impacts on students’ lives. Extending spring break by a week would mean that many students would have to cancel flights or trains and reschedule, potentially costing them significantly. Similarly, conducting online classes while still charging students normal tuition rates, is obviously at the very least unethical.
A new rumor seems to pop up about what’s happening on campus in relation to coronavirus almost every hour, and it is certainly having a negative impact on students’ mental health, as a lack of clarity often does. As one of this author’s own friends texted him on the day of the publication of this article, in relation to the coronavirus, “I don’t like this uncertainty.” This is certainly a sentiment that is mirrored by much of the student body, as we prepare for what could possibly be the worst global pandemic since the 1918 Spanish Flu.
As I note in my paper view, it is important in these uncertain times to mitigate our own levels of fear and stay level headed. Panicking solves nothing, and only negatively impacts our own mental health. So try to limit your scrolling of coronavirus related reddit forums, twitter threads, and news articles, as hard as that may be. Further, we should try to make sure that we do not fall into the worst of xenophobia against Asian-Americans (an ethnic group I am a member of), Italians, Seattleites, and individuals from whatever hard hit areas as the disease continues to spread.
Hopefully this virus is nothing more than a passing phase, and we as a society and university community can return to our normal routines as soon as possible.