Frankly Speaking: Stanford’s re-opening plans

Aug. 6, 2020, 12:45 p.m.

Last week, Frankly Speaking had the Stanford community weigh in on the question: “Should Stanford be re-opening in the fall?” We received a number of thoughtful replies, four of them published below.

Some context: In late June, the University announced its plans for a return to campus in the fall. First-years and sophomores would be invited back to campus for the fall and summer quarters, while juniors and seniors would be allowed back for the winter and spring quarters. Now, with Covid-19 cases seeing a resurgence across California and in the Bay Area, that original plan has come into question. In its Re-Approaching Stanford newsletter, the University announced on Wednesday, July 22 that it might reconsider its plan for a return to campus, with a final decision coming in “mid- to late-August.” 

In addition to the many immunocompromised students who deserve a safe place on campus, nearly everyone has people they care about that they don’t want to endanger. If they are uncertain whether they can provide adequate protection, Stanford should be “better safe than sorry” and stay shut to all but students who have home environments that aren’t conducive to learning. Much of Stanford’s success or failure, though, is dependent on students’ behavior. I hope that we are capable of prioritizing the lives of our fellow students and family members over our social lives and refrain from going to bars, crowded parties and other unnecessary social events. In the event that students fail to follow safety guidelines, Stanford should swiftly shutter its doors.

– Noah Howard, Political Science Undergraduate, Class of 2021

I absolutely think we should be allowed to return on campus, and here’s why. With the coronavirus pandemic at hand, it has become high priority for us to consider public health and protect communities more impacted. If college students were “contained” on campus, with more at-risk students provided with accommodations, we limit the outside world’s contact with people our age (who are currently vectors for viruses). Therefore, we don’t risk [the health of] other individuals.

– Anonymous Undergraduate, Class of 2023

While I miss working on campus and seeing all of the students, I worry about reopening amid an ever-worsening crisis. If we closed campus and sheltered in place in March, when the extent of the virus wasn’t nearly as bad as we are currently seeing, it doesn’t make sense to me why things are opening up again now. Sure, we may have a better understanding of the virus, but it doesn’t seem to be helping people make better choices to be safe, and there is still too much we don’t know about this virus and the long-term effects.

I’m worried for the safety of the students, and the faculty and staff that will be needed to support them. I’m sad that they are missing out on so much of the college experience, but I would be even more sad to learn of any of our community members succumbing to this virus, as so many people across the globe have already, because we returned to campus during a time when transmissions are exploding.

We all have to be in this together, and in it for the long haul. I hope that we can make the transition to reopening campus, and the broader economy, when there is a safe and proven vaccine and treatment.

–Anonymous Staff, Non-academic Unit

Simply put, Stanford administrators must ask themselves what students have to gain by coming back to campus in the fall — and realize that those perceived benefits simply do not outweigh the tremendous risks and disappointments that concentrating thousands of young adults in one place will almost certainly bring. There are certainly some upsides: for instance, being able to live down the hall from one’s friends again, returning to the beautiful Farm and, for many students, having more stability than their home situations. But, unfortunately, we now know that young adults face many more risks than most are willing to admit, with a recent UCSF study reporting that approximately ⅓ of 18-25 year olds will experience severe COVID-19 symptoms if infected. With the current trajectory of the pandemic, nearly none of the things that we all hope to experience on campus — in-person class, club activities and even small hangouts — will be allowed, making the experience sad at best. And, besides, even million-dollar operations like the MLB cannot control outbreaks in their tightly-monitored “bubbles” — so what makes Stanford think it can control thousands of young adults into abiding by the rules perfectly to prevent on-campus spread? (This, of course, is not even mentioning the University’s attempt to shift blame onto students when such an outbreak inevitably spreads through campus residences by making us sign “community contracts.”) All in all, when I consider the potential positives of going back in the fall, little convinces me that it will be worth the risks.

– Arjan Walia, History Undergraduate, Class of 2022

Frankly Speaking is aimed at extending discourse and debate on important subjects beyond Daily staffers. We want to hear from students across disciplines and social identities about their unique takes on campus news and culture. 

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