As the fall semester begins, Liberty University has joined a small group of universities that have been forced to switch to online learning owing to an increase in COVID-19 cases.
A campus-wide quarantine has been imposed by the private evangelical Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia, which will begin on August 30 and end on September 10. Prior to the start of the fall semester on August 24, the school did not have a mask or immunization requirement.
“To me, it’s just been a very unsafe environment,” Robert Locklear, a 21-year-old journalism student at Liberty, told Yahoo Finance. “We’re seeing thousands of students from literally all over the country gathered together with zero restrictions… you’re on the bus with 50 other people packed together, you’re in the cafeteria with hundreds of other people, you’re passing in the hallways and coming in very close contact with no one wearing masks.”
Liberty’s COVID-19 dashboard noted 159 active COVID-19 cases, out of which 124 were students. The university has around 15,000 students and 5,000 faculty or staff on campus. The dashboard was last updated on Aug. 25.
Liberty University sees ‘chaotic’ start to semester
Liberty’s temporary shift to online instruction follows the lead of colleges such as Rice University in Houston, the University of Texas in San Antonio, Rhode Island College in Providence, and others who have made similar changes ahead of the fall semester.
Many others are watching with bated breath as the number of positive cases rises.
Locklear, who was vaccinated in the spring semester and returned to Liberty on Aug. 21, said this year has been “very crazy,” in part because the freshmen cohort at Liberty has grown. According to a Liberty University official, the university is on track to have up to 500 more incoming residential students this year than last year.
Moreover, despite the recent outbreak of the extremely dangerous Delta strain, Locklear stated masks were unlikely to be used.
“I’ve hardly seen any at all, for the past week, maybe five or six every day, out of literally hundreds of people,” he said.
Colleges dangling perks to boost vaccinations
Other schools have used monetary incentives to convince students to have their children vaccinated.
For example, Norfolk State University recently announced a $500 scholarship for students who produce confirmation of immunization before September 20. A sweepstakes for vaccinated students was also held at Oklahoma Christian University, with prizes including AirPods, Xboxes, and more. (Vaccine regulations were implemented in California institutions.)
Some schools, including as Stanford University, have resumed regular testing, but given how colleges handled last year’s outbreaks, this will be another Herculean task.
“Looking at past semesters, last spring, only about 8% of institutions tested at what we would consider to be an adequate level of testing,” Chris Marsicano, assistant professor of educational studies at Davidson College, told Yahoo Finance Live (video above). (Testing once weekly, using high-quality tests, was considered for adequate for that analysis.)
Back in Lynchburg, the 21-year-old Locklear said this entire episode was a little disconcerting given Liberty’s Christian mission.
“I just think it’s a case where people should be looking to the values that they truly believe in,” he said. “That’s a major, major problem, especially for Liberty, because they’re supposed to be caring more for others.”
Source: Yahoo News