EDITORIAL: UA administration must stop blaming students for COVID-19 outbreaks on campus
Old Main, blocked off to allow landscape workers to operate. Taken on August 10th off of the UA Mall.
Here at the Daily Wildcat, we are concerned for every student’s health and safety on campus. We have taken issue with some of the University of Arizona administration’s actions — or rather, lack thereof— in operating during a pandemic.
It should be acknowledged that when the state of Arizona first started closing due to COVID-19 in mid-March, the UA immediately responded with some of the best interests of students in mind. When dorm and campus closures were put in place for all state universities, neither Northern Arizona University nor Arizona State University offered refunds immediately to their students living on campus. However, the UA announced within the month of March that every student living on campus who moved out would receive at least a partial refund.
The UA also dispersed funds to students through the CARES Act in the spring 2020 semester, and is currently offering students an opportunity to receive additional help through a survey in the fall 2020 semester. The university is also taking their “Test, Trace, Treat” motto seriously and have invested a lot of money into their testing program.
That being said, in the wake of multiple outbreaks within sororities, fraternities, and near-campus apartments, UA administration has taken their hands off the wheel and put all responsibility on students. This was well expressed by Dr. Richard Carmona, the Reentry Task Force director, in the Sept. 21 press briefing when he said that "we also recognized that our Achilles heel was going to be the social behavior — the normal social behaviors — of young men and women who come to college." Later in the briefing, UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins called the behavior a "blatant disregard to authority." After not enforcing UA safety protocols with sorority and fraternity houses, Robbins said in the same Sept. 21 briefing he himself was potentially exposed nine days earlier on Sept. 12, when he “took a student that [he knows] and her sorority sister out to dinner."
When breakouts continued to worsen, Pima County and the UA joint-released a recommended shelter-in-place, which amounted to guidelines that have been in place since the pandemic began and no real consequences for not following the shelter-in-place due to the “recommended” in the title.
We’ve also heard from students some professors are not wearing masks during in-person classes and are even joking about potential COVID-19 contraction when out on campus. It is unfair for the university to blame students for what is happening when it welcomed everyone back to campus, told students and faculty it would be safe and, yet, has faculty setting poor examples for students, let alone not enforcing guidelines of masks and social distancing on campus. Additionally, other media coverage has taken on administration’s perspective, making it difficult for students to feel understood.
If the UA wants students to continue trusting the school and administration, it needs to “Bear Down” on COVID-19 protocols with a simple new slogan for campus safety procedures: follow, enforce, maintain.
After all, student safety should be everyone's first concern, right?
Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat Opinions Board and are written by its members. They are Editor-in-Chief Sam Burdette, Opinions Editor Kayleigh Cook, Managing Editor Pascal Albright, Copy Chief JT Thorpe and Assistant Arts & Life Editor Ella McCarville. Follow the Daily Wildcat on Twitter