Signs from the neighborhood surrounding LC instructing people to slow down sit on the side of the street.

Neighborhood association discusses relationship with LC amid COVID-19

In preparation for the Fall 2020 semester, Lewis & Clark decided to close its campus to all members of the public. Beginning Aug. 1, anyone unaffiliated with LC was prohibited from entering campus, primarily to limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect residents of the Collins View neighborhood.

“We’ve closed the campus to limit intermingling,” David Reese, vice president, chief of staff, general counsel and board secretary for the college, said. “We closed Trail #5 going down to Macadam because it goes close to some neighbors’ houses and they asked us to do that.”

Prakash Joshi ’74 is the transportation chair of the Collins View Neighborhood Association (CVNA) board. In an interview, he discussed how Collins View residents have been impacted by LC’s campus closure.

“There was a sign posted at Lewis & Clark saying the campus is closed now, off-limits to anybody,” Joshi said. “Which is fine. We understand that.”

LC announced the closure of its campus in late July, when President Wim Wiewel announced the decision in an email sent to community members. The Collins View neighborhood surrounds LC’s three campuses. 

“We found out through the president’s letter … the community was shared on that … but the process of how (LC) would be implementing (safety measures) was not clear to us … And that’s what would (have been) good to have.” Joshi said. 

Wiewel’s letter was not sent directly to the CVNA. Instead, it was forwarded by Mark Duntley, the college’s liaison with the association and the dean of spiritual life. The CVNA has many concerns regarding the fall semester.

“The neighborhood is not closed to the college,” Joshi said. “We would never do that … but (students are) going past you without masks, going within inches of you, breathing heavily, coughing.”

When students first arrived on campus, the neighborhood community was unsure about how responsible the students would be. Since the semester has started, they have gained more trust in the campus population as they see the proof that students are being more careful while out in public.

“At the last CVNA Board meeting on Oct. 7 on Zoom, I shared my screen and showed them the testing results on the ‘COVID-19 Confirmed Cases Status Report’ page,” Mark Duntley said via email. “It was clear that they appreciated the way the college — and the students in particular — have been committed to health and the safety of the campus community and the wider community.”

Since the school reopened in the fall, students have been encouraged to take precautions when interacting with the people around them, and a student-led COVID-19 task force was created with the support of Robin Holmes-Sullivan, the vice president of student life and dean of students. 

“We meet weekly and discuss current COVID-related issues affecting students both on and off-campus,” Olivia Weiss ’23, one of the task force’s co-chairs, said via email. “We usually compile a list of specific questions/concerns that have been brought to our attention in the past week. Additionally, Robin often asks our input on current policies or how students are reacting to certain decisions. We also have begun brainstorming ways … to encourage students to continue to practice safe and healthy habits.”

Joshi said the college has not adequately updated the CVNA and would like to regularly receive information about the school’s protections against COVID-19.

“We just need some answers … because our sense of confidence and security comes from how we come across with people and how safe they are,” Joshi said. “If you knew that somebody was safe or not, then you’d feel more confident being around them. But if you didn’t know that you would keep your distance and you would observe some caution.” 

Reese said that LC strives to promote safe COVID-19 precautions as well as open information to all community members, including Collins View residents.

“We want to be transparent,” Reese said. “We have the webpage both for transparency with students and faculty in the community, but also the neighborhood. We want to be a good neighbor. We want our students to be good neighbors to those who live in the neighborhood.”

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