By Samantha Hilyer
Since the initial United States outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020, college students have felt the strain of increased levels of both anxiety and depression, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. College campuses have started reopening in the past few weeks with new regulations and safety precautions, like social distancing. Although they are necessary for public health according to the CDC, these actions can also cause feelings of isolation and loneliness, which increase anxiety and stress levels.
The fall semester of 2020 will be unique in many ways at Saint Vincent College due to the new foot-traffic patterns, the doors that say “exit only,” the plexiglass between staff and students, hybrid classes and masks. These preventative measures are being taken to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 and they may, for many students, faculty and staff, increase feelings of isolation and loneliness. But the Saint Vincent community is not alone in the fight to stay on campus as safely as possible.
Saint Vincent’s neighbors at Carlow University, Seton Hill University, and the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg are all facing the same challenges, but their strategies all vary in how they plan to keep their communities safe.
Carlow University, according to its website, has mandated mask wearing and social distancing practices on the campus. There are also screening sites on campus through which individuals wishing to enter campus must pass to have their temperatures checked before gaining access to the campus. In addition to these precautions, Carlow is offering upwards of 60% of its Fall semester classes online, a recent article published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
According to Seton Hill University’s website, the school required all of its students who planned on attending face-to-face classes for the fall semester to undergo a COVID-19 test prior to the beginning of classes. Masks and social distancing are required on campus and temperature checking stations are not mandatory but can be utilized should a student or faculty member feel ill on campus. Seton Hill University President Mary Finger also announced that Seton Hill hired an additional nurse who had experience developing and maintaining a COVID-19 clinic.
The University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, like all the other campuses, requires masks and social distancing. The university also offers a hybrid-flexible arrangement for classes, similar to the hybrid classes at Saint Vincent, according to its president, Dr. Robert Gregerson. However, before returning to campus for the fall semester, both students and faculty were required to complete COVID-19 response training online.
Saint Vincent and its neighboring collegiate communities all have one goal in common: to provide a safe, yet quality academic experience for their students. Stress and isolation may be the results of some of these safety precautions, but no one community is facing these challenges alone and each has a plethora of guidelines and regulations designed to keep their students on campus for the semester. As for how effective different measures are, only time will tell.