Allegheny discusses compliance with health and safety guidelines

After moving in at the end of August, the campus community has had to adjust to and follow the guidelines that were outlined in the college’s plan for reopening. 

The move-in process this semester was unlike any other in the college’s history. Students were assigned move-in dates and times and were tested for COVID-19 upon arrival. Despite the new processes and concern for community and student safety, President Hilary Link explained that move-in was successful.

“Given that we, like every other institution of higher learning in the whole country, had never done this before, I actually think it went amazingly well,” Link said. 

Member of Allegheny College Health Agency and Professor of Biology and Global Health Studies Becky Dawson recognized that the move-in process was difficult for families but regarded it as a necessity to keep the campus community safe before test results were returned. 

“I think the move-in process was emotionally really hard by only letting one parent in and wristbanding people and really limiting time in our spaces,’’ Dawson said. “(However,) it was so necessary. Personally, I would have been stricter.” 

Students went through two rounds of testing, the second test being used to check for positive cases that had not been caught by the primary test. There were seven confirmed cases of COVID-19 after the first round of testing and there are currently 27 confirmed cases to date. 

“I thought there would be more cases on campus,” Dawson said. “Why I thought there would be more cases on campus was just that the prevalence of this disease in college-aged students was high.” 

Raymond Englert, ’22, praised Allegheny’s testing protocol in comparison to other colleges and universities who did not test their student body upon moving in. 

“I’ve heard that just one round of testing for students costs an actual fortune, and they’re doing it twice to make sure everybody’s safe, which means that it’s a better investment for the school to make sure everybody is safe than to risk having to send people home,” Englert said. 

Link attributed the college’s comprehensive plan and testing protocol to ACHA, access to medical experts and Allegheny’s size and secluded location. Being in a more isolated area gave the school an opportunity to receive “top-notch medical care,” Link said. 

“We have seven experts listed on (the ACHA) website, but beyond that, I have alumni who are epidemiologists that I am talking to on the phone really frequently. I have medical experts who are alumni, who I speak to,” Link said. “I feel like I’m getting all the best advice and guidance.”

Despite the testing protocol, reducing the spread of the virus is reliant upon community participation and adherence to the Center for Disease Control guidelines, according to Link.

“The best things you can do is wear a mask, stay six feet apart, not do big gatherings, wash your hands and use common sense,” Link said. “We have a whole testing protocol that we’re going to continue through the rest of the semester, but testing does not mitigate the spread of the virus.”

From a faculty perspective, Dawson said that she has observed students complying with the guidelines, but she does not know if the guidelines are followed on the weekends or inside residence halls.

“What I have seen (safety-wise) is really positive but I want to acknowledge that I don’t know what is happening when people go into Brooks or their apartments or even fraternity houses,” Dawson explained. 

Students overall have been following the guidelines and being safe, Englert said. 

He attributed this to a strong campus community and the collective desire to stay on campus this semester.

 “We want to make sure that we are all set, being smart, staying safe, wearing our mask, following rules so we could stay on campus and we can have as normal of a semester as possible,” Englert said. “A lot of people I think just have that common goal.” 

Students have also been taking to social media to spread awareness about safety guidelines and advising others to follow the rules. 

“I’ve seen (students promoting safe behavior) all over Instagram,” Englert said. “People are saying, ‘Wear your masks, I’m serious,’ or ‘If you’re seeing people (or having a party), I’m snitching.’” 

One Instagram page, @alleghenymasks, is a profile that posts memes about wearing masks and shows Allegheny students who are wearing masks incorrectly, their faces blurred for anonymity. 

“Holding people accountable is one of the biggest things because our generation, if anything, is (in agreement with) the mindset that change comes within us,” Englert said. 

Notwithstanding the consensus that students are following the guidelines, there are many difficulties associated with going to college during a pandemic. 

“We also have to keep in mind that part of the health and wellbeing of the campus community is also the mental health and wellbeing,” Link said. “This is isolating. It can feel really alienating and stressful and scary.” 

Due to students possibly needing more support, Link revealed that the administration is working on making mental health services more available to students, whether they contracted the virus or they are experiencing other anxieties or stressors.

“We’re really trying to work with our Counseling and Personal Development Center to try to support students, whether those are students in quarantine, or students who are feeling ill or just students who are feeling (stressed),” Link said.