Written for The Argo by Aliza Brown
According to Stockton University’s official daily confirmed COVID-19 cases web page, the school has reported 49 total coronavirus cases since September 1. Of those confirmed positive cases, 40 are from students who live off-campus, seven are from residential students who live on Galloway’s campus, one is from a student on Atlantic City’s campus, and one is from a Stockton employee. Stockton has since cleared 20 of these cases and currently has 29 active cases.
Total cases since 9/1/20
Senior, Kara Arcidiacano, explained how she feels about living and being on campus during COVID-19. “Living on campus during the pandemic has been very different from previous years and honestly, I feel that the precautions taken aren’t followed or don’t make sense,” said Arcidiacano. “We’re supposed to wear masks anytime we aren’t in our rooms, yet I’ve never seen anyone wearing one. We also aren’t permitted to have guests come over, but people like maintenance and cleaning staff come in and out after going home or out to other places like the rest of us.”
Stockton did not require students to test for COVID-19 before returning to campus, which might attest to some early cases.
Instead, students must take a “daily health pledge,” which appears upon logging into their Stockton emails. The purpose of this daily pledge is to monitor the health of the community. It asks students to confirm that they have not tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 14 days, that they are not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, and much more.
All Stockton community members are expected to agree to the terms of the pledge daily and are not permitted to log onto Stockton platforms without signing the pledge. Students who test positive for COVID-19 are also not permitted on campus. The university requires residential students who test positive for COVID-19 to quarantine at a safe campus location.
Stockton has implemented multiple safety guidelines and measurements to try to keep everyone safe this semester. This includes keeping a six-foot, physically distanced campus with behavioral signage that gives students specific directions to follow: certain ways to walk down hallways, increased sanitization throughout the campus, providing personal protective equipment and hygiene such as masks, consistent communication throughout the Stockton community, health monitoring and contract tracing.
Despite all of the university’s efforts in hopes of preventing COVID-19 from spreading throughout the Stockton community, cases continue to rise on campus. The question is, why?
“I do feel pretty safe on campus. I think Stockton does a good job in making sure students and others are wearing their mask and following social distancing guidelines,” says Stockton senior, Jelani Gandy. “I also feel like Stockton is doing its best to be transparent in cases. I think the daily updated COVID test results are a good idea because they allow students to know how many people have reported that they have COVID.”
However, I do think that Stockton should have tested all of their students that live on campus. If we did, we may have been able to avoid some cases,” Gandy said. “I also think that the online pledge is a good idea, though I don’t think many students have actually read it. Nonetheless, it is something the school has decided to do to be proactive for the fight against COVID.”
Although most classes offered this semester are virtual, certain classes are still being held in-person, with students required to wear masks as they enter campus. For students who live in residential facilities, housing looks very different this year. Guests are completely prohibited, and many of the housing assignments which originally fit multiple people now only fit two. Students may not attend or host large gatherings, whether that be on-campus or off-campus. The university encourages students to report those who host large gatherings to the Care and Community Standards Office as they pose a risk to the entire community.
A day before classes started for the semester, Christopher Catching, the Vice President for Student Affairs, sent out an email to the campus community, which explained all of the consequences for breaking the rules set in place by the university. These consequences range from losing housing with no refund, interim suspension, suspension, or expulsion. The email also explained that ten students had already been removed from University housing for having on-campus gatherings.
“I do feel safe on campus, but only because I trust myself. I feel that the school will never truly know who is positive and who is not, but I do see they are trying their best to keep people updated and keep the sick off-campus,” said Arcidiacano. “Unfortunately, we are faced with something so terrible, but we should continue life as normal as possible, including going to school.”
Stockton University requests that all faculty, staff, and students testing for COVID-19, even if they do not have the results back yet, contact firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible. This step will help the university begin contact-tracing. Students should also contact the Student Health Services at email@example.com if they are feeling sick.