Holy Cross Unmasked: Student Responses to This Year’s COVID-19 Policies

Stacey Kaliabakos

Chief Opinions Editor

In an email sent out on July 21, 2022, entitled “Student policies under an endemic mindset,” Chief Risk and Compliance Officer Denielle Burl explained the new COVID-19 policies to be instituted at Holy Cross this fall. She began her email by acknowledging the fact that every student at Holy Cross has been affected by COVID over the past several years, whether academically, socially, or physically. Keeping that in mind, she wrote, “To the extent possible, we are committed to providing a higher education experience that is as close to normal as possible.” This statement undoubtedly caused most of the students at Holy Cross to let out a sigh of relief. The past few years for college and high school students have been anything but normal– as a senior, I still have yet to complete a year of college uninterrupted by COVID outbreaks. The prospect of living out this year in a relatively pre-pandemic mindset is very exciting.

The details of the email are as follows and can also be found on the school’s COVID information page, https://www.holycross.edu/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-information. Holy Cross will no longer mandate COVID-19 testing, but students who would like to get tested may receive a rapid antigen test from Health Services. Students are also still required to isolate themselves if they test positive for COVID-19, but they are not required to do so off campus. Holy Cross has also become a “Mask Optional” campus, although faculty members reserve the right to institute a mask mandate in classrooms and personal offices. Masks also must be worn inside Holy Cross transportation and in Health Services. Holy Cross community members also are still required to be up to date with their vaccinations (i.e., the primary COVID vaccination series and booster, if eligible). Last but not least, students no longer have to check in with HC Clear every day (which was, according to most students, one of the worst policies the college instituted during the pandemic).

I know how I feel about the relaxation of restrictions, but I was curious to know how my peers were reacting to this subject. Therefore, I sent an anonymous questionnaire out to various friends and acquaintances to discover if there was a diversity of opinions on the COVID-19 policies at Holy Cross right now. Below are the questions and various responses students had to offer.

How do you feel about the current Vaccination policy at Holy Cross?

“I honestly don’t know it well enough, but as it seems it is required that everyone have at least 3 doses of the Coronavirus vaccine (except for those with specific exceptions), which is a weird policy seen in many places even though the unvaccinated only endanger themselves. Those who worry should get the vaccine, and those who wish to take the risk of going unvaccinated should go unvaccinated. Only those who accept the risk will be in danger (unless it can be explained that this is not true, which has never been done loudly enough for me to see. It almost seems to be a popular, unquestioned assumption).”

“I’m glad they asked everyone on campus to get vaccinated because it protects everyone’s health.”

“The application of the current vaccination policy has been an appropriate approach towards guaranteeing the health and safety of the Holy Cross community through the pandemic.”

How do you feel about the current Masking policy at Holy Cross?

“I wish masks were still required in the classroom, but other than that I am happy with the rest of campus being a mask optional place.”

“The optional policy is a great measure as we transition towards a post-pandemic world. Although COVID-19 is still tangible and affects others, vaccinations and other treatment options have significantly improved the situation. However, providing the option for professors and students to request or wear a mask helps protect those individuals who can still be heavily afflicted by the virus.”

“I am fully in support of the current masking policy at Holy Cross. I think the college administration made a wise decision to make masking optional. At this point in the pandemic I think that most people no longer are as concerned about Covid. Considering how vaccinated our student and faculty body is, I think that requiring masks would only serve to anger members of the Holy Cross community and create enforcement issues for the school.”

How do you feel about the current COVID-19 testing policy at Holy Cross?

“The transition to testing on your own accord is a great testing policy. If you are sick, you should take precautions by resting and taking a test. It is now like any other viral infection or ailment and still should be treated as such.”

“I wish that there was more testing available for students who still want to do it.”

“I am fully in support of the current testing policy at Holy Cross. Due to the rate of vaccination at Holy Cross and the decreasing severity of most Covid cases I think this decision was smart. Requiring students and faculty to test once or twice a week would only serve to waste the college’s resources and make everyone’s lives harder. I think that having tests available for when you feel sick is the best policy.”

Overall, how do you think the Holy Cross COVID Response Leadership team has done over the past few years in terms of their policies and restrictions? What do you think could have been done differently or better?

“I think they did as well as other places in the time of uncertainty about how Covid spreads and affects people. Holy Cross masked longer than other places which I think was good. I do not know what they could have done better because I kinda forget what it was like back with all the restrictions.”

“Absurd at times. Justifications and explanations are rare or absent, since they probably find comfort in the fact that other institutions do the same.”

“I think that the team was far too restrictive in their policies and restrictions. I wish they would have relaxed the restrictions much sooner for the school.”

“I think they did a great job for the most part, except for the end of Spring 2022 when over 300 students got COVID around finals week. I also think they ended COVID restrictions too quickly from last semester to this semester. We still have immunocompromised people on campus, not to mention older professors and staff who also need to be protected.”

“Not everything was great. One aspect that was horrible was the inconsistency in maintaining certain policies. For example, the Fall semester of 2020 was supposed to allow students to return, only for the week before classes to rip that from under us without warning and preparation for alternatives. Similarly with the Spring Semester of 2021, there were too many times where the leadership would go back and forth on minimizing restrictions or policies.”

I believe this feedback will be extremely helpful to the administration involved in developing current and past COVID-19 policies at Holy Cross. These responses also showed me that there is quite a diversity of opinions at Holy Cross on COVID-19 procedures, which is very interesting to see. I hope we can continue to foster important conversations about decision-making processes on campus in order to become better men and women, for and with others.

Photo courtesy of Avanell Chang

Categories: Opinions

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