Updated: Sep 21, 2020
Throughout the United States, the coronavirus pandemic has upheaved everyday life. Businesses have been forced to close and Americans have been confined in their homes hoping that their self-imposed quarantines would help mitigate the spread of the virus. However, because of the ease in which COVID-19 spreads and its primarily asymptomatic appearance in teenagers and young adults, institutions of higher education have become the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to a survey conducted by The New York Times of more than 1,600 public universities and colleges across the country, at least 88,000 confirmed cases and 60 deaths can be directly attributed to coronavirus spread on college campuses. Rhode Island’s institutions of higher education are not immune to this phenomenon. At the University of Rhode Island, 20 people have tested positive since the beginning of the pandemic. Brown University and Bryant University have both had 10 confirmed cases and Rhode Island College has had two confirmed cases.
Because of this and the increased scrutiny of how colleges and universities are handling the coronavirus pandemic, Rhode Island College decided in mid-July to relegate a majority of classes online, allowing only limited classes such as art, clinicals, and a few selected first year seminars for freshman to take place in person.
In an email sent out to the RIC campus community on July 24th, President Frank Sanchez stated: “Our decision was made with the understanding that access to and delivery of high-quality academic programs and robust student experience is not possible unless our campus community is healthy and well. Simply put, our top priority is maintaining the health and safety of members of our campus community in the fulfillment of our mission.”
President Sanchez also asserted that RIC’s decision to move classes mostly online was influenced by the resurgence of infection rates across the country, the fiscal challenge of implementing a campus-wide testing and quarantine program and the large portion of commuter students on campus.
Although most classes remain online, the Rhode Island College campus is open. The Recreation Center, Adams Library, Donovan Dining Center, the Student Union as well as all classroom buildings are open for RIC students to use for limited hours with their student ID.
Additionally, RIC has initiated testing for both symptomatic and asymptomatic residential students and athletes in the Student Union Ballroom. According to RIC’s reopening plan, frontline employees such as dining services employees and Adams Library Personnel may also be required to undergo asymptomatic testing every other week.
Moreover, anyone arriving on campus must fill out a wellness check on the Rave Guardian app as well as pass a visual-verbal screening conducted by Anchor Health Ambassadors before entering buildings on campus.
In a campus-wide email prior to the start of classes, the Interim Vice President for Student Success, Ducha Hang Ph.D., affirmed, “Students found in violation [of COVID-19 regulations] can receive a sanction that can include but is not limited to written warning, residence probation or removal, or suspension or expulsion from Rhode Island College.” She also stated,“I am confident that with your commitment to following federal, state, local, and college public health guidance— we can do our part to mitigate the spread of the virus.”
For students who require any additional support the RIC Counseling Center is offering phone and video appointments via appointment as well as a “drop-in” video group open to any RIC student on Wednesdays from 2pm to 3pm. To book an appointment with the counseling center contact them at (401) 456 – 8094 or fill out a request form via the RIC website.
For students needing immediate assistance, the RIC HOPE Line can be reached day and night at (401) 456 - HOPE (4673).
Photo Credit: Grace Kimmell