SEU administration’s COVID-related decisions deserve recognition


Juan Diaz / Hilltop Views

St. Edward’s student Isaiah Bass is following guidelines by wearing his Topper mask. Masks like these can be purchased at St. Edward’s bookstore.

The start of this fall semester has been unlike any other at St. Edward’s. With most courses being conducted virtually, students have had to adjust their school mentality to do classes either at home or on a nearly empty campus. The school has reopened to allow students to use campus services in person while enforcing social distancing guidelines. However, the decisions and policies placed by administration in response to the ongoing pandemic have had a poor impression on students.

Throughout the summer, I anxiously waited for emails notifying me of what to expect my final semester at St. Edward’s to be like. My thoughts of what to expect were somewhat settled around mid-July when an email announced the Student Choice for Fall Semester plan. From that day forward, more emails and invitations to join webinars to discuss plans for the upcoming semester were sent out to students. The timeframe to make my final decision felt rushed considering it was unclear whether my classes would be  hybrids, face-to-face or mixes of those. Near the end of July, I, along with the rest of the student body, had to confirm whether we would be returning to campus at all in the fall.

With the responses the administration received, they determined how to move forward with reopening campus and allowing for those who did return to take precautions against COVID-19. A test kit was mailed out only to students who confirmed they would be on campus throughout the fall. From the test kits delivered, the COVID-19 Community Dashboard found on the university’s Healthy Hilltop webpage has reported 2,173 processed tests, 7 positive tests and a positivity rate of 0.32%.

Based on these results, we can expect that they would be far greater if in-person instruction was allowed, even while practicing social distancing guidelines. The rate of cases has yet to reach a plateau or decrease within Travis County, which currently has 26,931 positive COVID-19 cases, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. While communication was substandard and decisions put in place felt unjustified, we can give a small applause to the administration for their decision of conducting classes virtually to prevent as many students, faculty and staff members from being exposed to COVID-19. Even though academic instruction and student life experiences have changed drastically, I feel these changes are something we’ve each had to learn to accept to help calm the spread of the virus.

From now until December, the St. Edward’s community must try to make the most of this virtual semester. We could only hope that communication regarding any changes from now to the start of the spring semester will be thorough, timely and transparent. Do your best to stay safe and practice social distancing whether on campus or in your hometown.