Photo of gasson with a thumbs down over it, saying "COVID-19 SUCKS."
Hajin Cho / Gavel Media

Grading BC's Covid Response

Gossip, misinformation and a lack of action have dominated Boston College’s COVID-19 response. While constantly blaming the students, administrators have neglected their obligation to create a system that works. Without broad structures and procedures, individuals can only do so much in virus mitigation. Since BC gives us grades, I thought it would be best to evaluate them in the same manner. Their transcript is as follows….

Testing: F 

Not only does BC refuse to test its student population twice a week, but numerous testing blunders have scarred the entire process. BC has failed to live up to the standards set by universities like Harvard, BU, Cornell, UPenn and numerous others, who consistently test their students at least twice a week. We know BC can, as they are testing the freshman twice a week, so what is stopping them from testing the entire population? In reality, the recommendation is that we be tested every 2 days, so twice a week should represent a bare minimum. 

Quarantine: D 

Thanks to the City of Newton, contact tracing has been and continues to be extensive and timely. As BC continues to remind us, the number of contacts is going up and it’s imperative that all potential contacts are reported and isolated. I have firsthand experience of isolation after a roommate tested positive during her arrival test. The actual problems come within quarantine itself. After an initial phone call to go over general procedures, we heard nothing from anyone until day 6 for a reminder to go get tested. No check-ins, no monitoring, nothing. I also should note that we found out the next week that a mistake was made and my roommate’s test was actually inconclusive. A subsequent test came back negative, meaning she never had COVID in the first place. 

Responsibility: F 

The common thread throughout this pandemic has been BC blaming its students the entire time. While individual responsibility certainly plays a large role during a pandemic, the majority of students are following the guidelines. Additionally, hypocrisy abounds when we are all called in for immediate meetings to ask students to do even more to stop the spread. Meanwhile, BC refuses to consider increasing testing, stopping dine-in at the dining halls and other systematic solutions. Take the freshmen as an example - BC didn’t de-densify the dorms and these freshmen have to make friends and figure out who they’re living with somehow. Freshman year is tough enough in a normal world, and with the addition of a pandemic, the “normal” college experience has been upended. While we all need to do our part, there’s no need to constantly scapegoat the most susceptible group who all must share communal bathrooms. 

Communication: F

From gossip to fake emails, we’ve seen it all during the pandemic. From the beginning, the speculation and delay in a university response has been a hallmark. BC put its students on a ridiculously tight timeline of 5 days to evacuate campus last spring. A lack of transparency and communication with students has bred a culture of misinformation that is easily exploited. We saw it just last week, with campus-wide speculation that BC would be sent into a two-week lockdown amid rising cases, as students braced for the worst and a supposed (fake) email from VP Lockhead sent us into a panic. All of these situations that cause students anxiety are easily avoidable by just being more transparent and communicative. For example, Harvard suffered from the same Broad Institute testing mishap, and they openly address it on their website. We’re not asking BC to be perfect; we’re just asking them to be honest. 

Dashboard: F* 

If BC had to face an integrity board for the dashboard, they would fail it. To begin, the format/categories are misleading. They only report students in “isolation”, meaning that the number of contacts that quarantine on campus together are not reflected. With how BC has been emphasizing the increased number of contacts, it would be important for transparency to actually let students know the total number. Other schools, Harvard included, state both the number of students in isolation and in quarantine.  BC has also been known to retroactively add positive cases to the dashboard after the week has passed. This is, of course, done to evade scrutiny. Funnily enough, when I “retroactively” complete my essays, I get points docked. 

Amenities: A (for better, or worse?) 

The effort that has gone into ensuring the gym and dining halls remain open is truly astounding. It’s so inherently BC to have the only place on campus doing temperature checks be the gym. Cura Personalis is really being taken quite literally here. Of course, the dining halls don’t need to do this even though you’ll be unmasked for an extended period. The dining halls have become the hottest hang-out spot on campus since you can sit at a table with 5 friends unmasked, yet only 2 can be in your room with masks on. 

Overall, the administration needs to seriously evaluate its current policies. Continuously blaming the students doesn’t solve any problems. The university had their dress rehearsal last semester. The curtain is up and they’re stumbling over their lines, despite numerous people feeding them exactly what to say. 

International Studies student whose main fun fact is that she's from Arkansas. And yes, I'd love to explain the linguistic history of why Kansas and Arkansas are pronounced differently.