Learning in isolation

With a return to in-person learning, students across Texas A&M's campus raise concerns for the lack of virtual learning options available with COVID-19 cases still on the rise. 

Most classes returned to an in-person format this semester, leaving many students who test positive for COVID-19 with few options to keep up with school work while in quarantine. 

Texas A&M has given the responsibility of determining appropriate isolation arrangements to faculty members, according to guidelines on the A&M website. Services also previously provided to on-campus students have been cut down, such as meal and laundry delivery by dorm resident advisors, according to the ResLife website.

Carol D. Binzer, Ph.D., director of administrative and support services at the Department of Residence Life, said making sure on-campus students have somewhere to isolate can be a lot to juggle.

“It's like playing Tetris … we have so many spaces, people use them 10 days at a time and they need to be cleaned so the next person can go in,” Binzer said. 

As far as planning for meals while in isolation this semester, Binzer said i is now up to students to create their own plan for receiving food.

“We spent a good deal of money and student time creating teams of people that would deliver the food,” Binzer said. “What we found in our experience was their friends were bringing them food anyways, so they didn’t really need, nor did they care for, what was being offered.” 

With campus now fully reopened, A&M has decided to leave more responsibilities up to individual students, Binzer said.

“Since everything is open and going, they went for a little more of a plan before you even get here [and] about what you’re going to do … when, if, you test positive,” Binzer said. 

These regulations have left many students, such as soil science senior Chris O’Brian, who quarantined off campus, with concerns while self-quarantining. 

“[In] some of my classes, the professor did not have a Zoom option, no recorded option and did not send me what they were doing in class,” O’Brian said. 

This lack of virtual options to complete assignments on time and to stay caught up on coursework was difficult, O’Brian said. 

“The only thing I got from this particular class was at the end of the chapter they would post the completed notes, but that was the same day our homework was due,” O’Brian said. “So, I only had that day to do the homework, and I never got any sort of actual instruction.”

While the university did notify O’Brian that he needed to quarantine, he said it did not provide much direction. 

“There wasn't really that much guidance, it was just what I found on my own on the website,” O’Brian said. “It just said to isolate, but it didn’t say clearly when the days were. I kinda just took my best guess.”

O’Brian said this lack of guidance has left classes with little to no continuity in their isolation accommodations.

“I wish that [the university] would have made it a requirement that professors provide a Zoom option or a recording option because they spent a lot of money last semester to make sure that every classroom has Zoom capabilities,” O’Brian said. 

This sentiment has also been shared by students on Twitter, including biology senior McCain Kinerd. 

This online discussion led to the recent creation of a Change.org petition calling for recorded lectures of in-person classes at A&M. However, it sits at only 69 signatures as of Oct. 7. A previous petition, launched in support of the Sept. 14 protest in Academic Plaza, has accumulated over 24,000 signatures, according to the website. 

It is important to have a personal plan in place for if you test positive, Binzer said.

“Think through what you might do if it turns out that you need to isolate or quarantine,” Binzer said. 

More information about Residence Life’s COVID-19 guidelines can be found on its website. 

Additionally, campus members can visit Texas A&M’s website for more general information regarding the university’s guidelines. 

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