The first monthly COVID-19 risk assessment survey, sent to students on Oct. 2, revealed students are generally abiding by Lewis & Clark’s COVID-19 policy in classrooms, but are more negligent in residential halls and common areas on campus.
Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students Robin Holmes-Sullivan emailed the survey to the 1,509 students who did not choose to be fully remote this semester. The survey was available until Oct. 4. Roughly 37% of students responded, submitting 557 surveys, of which 507 were completed.
On-campus students were overrepresented, according to Renée Orlick, director of institutional research. About two-thirds of students taking in-person classes live in residence halls, but this group accounted for about three-quarters of respondents.
“We were pleased with the response rate and felt the results were solid and indicative of what we have been experiencing and seeing on campus,” Holmes-Sullivan said via email. “We will continue to emphasize the ways that students can lessen the possibility of community transmission and infection by following expected guidelines.”
Eighty-nine percent of survey respondents reported observing people wearing proper face coverings in classrooms all of the time, and a further 10% observed this behavior most of the time.
In contrast to the overwhelming consensus that students are following COVID-19 policy in the classroom, respondents indicated a more lax approach in residence halls and common spaces, where observed compliance with face mask policy ranged from 56% to 59%.
Only a quarter of on-campus residents observed people consistently socially distancing in residence halls. Over a third of on-campus residents noted they had seen students in residence halls other than their own, which was against LC’s COVID-19 policy at the time of the survey. However, three-quarters of respondents said they felt residential students are generally abiding by the four-people-per-room occupancy limit.
“Although the rates of transmission continue to surge across the country and even in the State of Oregon, our test results (both from the effluent sampling and COVID-19 testing) continue to affirm an extremely low positivity rate among our students,” Holmes-Sullivan said. “So far, students have done a good job of ensuring that the community transmission rates are very low to non-existent.”
While LC has managed to remain nearly coronavirus-free, the rest of Oregon — and the country — has seen a record-breaking surge in cases. For the first time, the United States recorded 100,000 new infections in a single day on Nov. 4, according to The New York Times. Oregon reported over 800 new cases of COVID-19 the following day, Nov. 5. Over the week of Oct. 30 to Nov. 5., Oregon’s daily average of 578 cases was 159% higher than the daily average two months ago, as reported by The Oregonian.
Rosalind Margulies ’23, a resident of Edna L. Holmes Hall, said she thinks the lack of cases at LC shows that students are doing a good job following COVID-19 policy. According to Margulies, students at LC generally like to think of themselves as being “woke,” and no one wants to be responsible for bringing COVID-19 to the school.
Student comments in the survey ranged from requests for greater communication from the administration regarding policies and test results to speculation about motivations behind COVID-19 policy decisions. In the report Orlick sent to Holmes-Sullivan summarizing the results of the survey, Orlick noted that “(a) number of respondents indicated that they felt the (institution’s) concerns were more about money than student safety.”
Comments also concerned parties occurring both on and off-campus. Gabriel Huerta ’22, a resident advisor in Platt-Howard Hall, credits this to expectations about college.
“I think at the beginning of the year, freshmen really were clinging onto that college experience they feel like they were owed,” Huerta said.
Huerta reminds residents that room occupancy is limited to four people.
“They were throwing over-10-person parties and some people would hide under each other’s beds when (resident advisors) got there,” Huerta said. “I would ask them ‘how many people are in your room?’ and they would be like ‘uh…five?’”
Caitlin Chow-Ise ’23, a resident advisor (RA) in Platt West, agreed that although students felt they were missing out on the “college experience,” that does not excuse disregard for LC’s COVID-19 policy.
During meetings with RAs, Holmes-Sullivan floated the idea of allowing larger gatherings — albeit still socially-distanced and following state guidelines. Both Chow-Ise and Huerta said they were against relaxing policies any further.
“Although people are socially starved, we’re doing well right now because restrictions are in place,” Huerta said.
Holmes-Sullivan remains optimistic in the face of the survey results.
“Although there may be perceptions that students are not following guidelines, we do not have evidence or actual reports that support this,” Holmes-Sullivan said.