Students want to go to campus this fall. Schools would like to have them there. But campus won’t be the same as it always has. In order to prevent the spread of coronavirus, colleges and universities are instituting new policies and discussing new living arrangements for their incoming students. Beyond social distancing, face masks and hand sanitizer, here are changes colleges are considering for students living on campus.
Creating Student Cohorts
A cohort is a group of students who share a major, classes and academic interests. This could be anywhere from eight to twenty students who not only attend the same classes but live together in a suite or a hallway in a dorm. As long as everyone quarantined together if someone was infected, they would not need to socially distance around one another, allowing for more real and satisfying social interaction.
The pros of cohort living are allowing students to be with other students while also limiting the spread of the virus. But not all students in a cohort may get along, and students only living and interacting with other students in their majors and classes might prevent them from experiencing the joy of making new friends with different perspectives.
All Students Get a Single
Another proposed living arrangement is for every student to each get their own single dorm room. Campuses tend to have a limited number of single rooms, but some colleges are considering turning doubles or triples into singles to accommodate more students. Eastern Michigan University announced that they would guarantee a single room to every student who requests one in the fall, at a slightly reduced rate.
If a student living in a single room gets sick, they can isolate themselves easily and avoid spreading the virus. But not every student, especially those who crave social interaction, would enjoy living on their own – some might even find it to bring an added level of stress to an already stressful time.
Part of preventing the spread of coronavirus is detecting it early. Some colleges have considered using a health-tracking app to identify and isolate potential cases on campus. The University of Alabama has an app currently in development that would prompt daily questionnaires about how a user is feeling, and if they are experiencing common coronavirus symptoms like coughing or a fever. A separate contact tracing app would be suggested, but not required, and could send a Bluetooth-powered notification if the user interacted with someone who later tested positive for the virus.
Being able to track and isolate the virus before it spreads is almost necessary to opening up in the fall. But the use of an app raises questions for students’ privacy. Although the UAB app says it won’t record GPS data, students may feel a bit exposed at a time when they are hoping to taste their first bit of freedom.
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