Numerous college students traveled to popular spring break destinations over the past week despite being advised to avoid those areas by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Northeastern State University’s President Steve Turner announced Saturday, March 21, that, due to the hundreds of NSU students’ requests for travel forms to return to campus, NSU has adjusted their housing strategy. The university will close the residence halls for two weeks to students who traveled off campus during spring break.
“In a perfect world, I understand why most young people, or perhaps most of us, would want to spend time enjoying the sand, sun, water and warmer temperatures,” said Turner in a memo directed to NSU students, faculty and staff. “However, we do not live in a perfect world. College students are not invincible. And as I said in a previous update, I am concerned that they have been unknowingly exposed to the coronavirus.”
NSU acknowledges that not everyone who left campus for spring break went to a densely-populated area. The university will review requests on a case-by-case basis for students who may need to come back to campus, such as those who do not have reliable internet connections away from campus and did not travel to a dense, populated area with confirmed COVID-19 cases. All cases will be reviewed by Dr. Jerrid Freeman, vice president for Student Affairs.
“I was really hoping to go back to campus if the internet at my house was not working,” said Emily Gregor, freshman. “I live in such a rural area that I knew it would be difficult to be able to work Zoom, so I was upset when the news about closing the halls happened, but I understand the reason behind it.”
Students may have to wait until the residence halls reopen on April 5 to retrieve their belongings left in campus housing. Also, seniors in their final semester may miss some parts of the college experience.
“I left early Friday morning for spring break before I received the first email about the closing campus, and I anticipated getting more of my belongings the week after spring break,” said Alaina Wilson, Owasso senior. “Luckily I have my books, but I would still like to retrieve more of my things. I am a little sad about not being on campus, but I’m glad President Turner is trying to prevent the virus from spreading. Missing the last bit of my college experience is somewhat sad, but I’ve spent plenty of time at NSU and closing campus to keep someone healthy is worth it.”
NSU is following similar guidelines that other Oklahoma universities are following during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University will deliver its classes in an online format following spring break. Oklahoma Baptist University will put their classes online throughout the rest of the semester and will not allow anyone who went to out of the country or to U.S. states with known COVID-19 outbreaks within the past 30 days to return to on-campus housing. The University of Tulsa will require its faculty and staff to work from home and restrict access to their dormitories and student apartments.
“I think NSU has reacted properly to the COVID-19 pandemic thus far,” said Wilson. “I am very thankful that we were not required to move out with short notice, as other universities have enforced. I am also glad that we continued classes until spring break and that our courses will not be postponed but administered online.”
For CDC updates regarding COVID-19, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html. For more updates from NSU and Turner, visit https://offices.nsuok.edu/studentaffairs/Coronavirus.
Austin Headlee is the editor in chief of The Northeastern student newspaper.