Opinions, Editorials

Editorial: Successful Fall Semester a Testament to University’s Planning, Leadership

The University’s successful completion of the fall semester is a testament to its strong planning and execution of its procedures. No college administrator, professor, student, or staff member was trained to handle the COVID-19 pandemic. Given this lack of training, it is impressive that Boston College was able to do what many other universities could not: operate a residential college campus amid a pandemic.

Part of BC’s success can be attributed to its consistency—it made a plan and stuck to it. The administration incrementally released its reopening plan beginning in June, and for the most part followed through with it even as other colleges and universities reversed course. BC kept the community informed over the summer through regular email updates and a Q&A in September.

When the University did amend its procedures, though, it did so on reasonable grounds. 

In response to a spike in COVID-19 cases on campus during the second week of classes, the University began increasing the frequency of testing. On Oct. 2, the Office of Residential Life altered its guest policy for residence halls to limit the spread of COVID-19 from large gatherings. While the original guest policy for the semester allowed students to host one guest per resident, the new policy limited students to one guest in traditional housing and two in apartments and suites. 

The University also fixed data reporting errors on the COVID-19 dashboard once The Heights reported on them. This update allowed BC’s dashboard to more accurately reflect the number of BC community members the University was testing each week.

Undergraduates were able to experience campus life this semester in a way that resembled previous semesters. Students were able to live in residence halls, go to some in-person classes, and eat in dining halls. The altered landscape of the dining halls to allow for physical distancing made the dining experience difficult for some students, though. BC Dining did an excellent job at keeping students safe while in the dining halls, but the modifications it made to do so came at the expense of having a range of food options. 

In response to student and parent complaints about the lack of options and the overall quality of the food, BC Dining altered the layout of the lines in the dining halls after Thanksgiving, expanding its options. Instead of having multiple lines with the same options as it did before Thanksgiving, each lane offered different options. It listed options outside the entrance of each line so that students could choose which line to enter. BC Dining should continue this trend to make more food options available next semester. 

Despite the impressive fall semester, as BC looks to welcome students back to campus for the spring semester, it is clear that there is room for the University to improve. 

BC’s COVID-19 dashboard leaves much to be desired. At the time of publication, BC’s dashboard only lists BC community tests performed, total positives, total undergraduate tests, and undergrads testing positive. Other universities’ COVID-19 dashboards, like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Amherst College, are much more detailed and straightforward than BC’s.

The categories which the University accounts for on its dashboard lack clarity, especially the “community tests performed,” because the University does not specify which individuals it includes in this group. It is unclear whether the University’s random asymptomatic testing of this group includes all employees, for example. BC should redesign its dashboard to give a more comprehensive picture of the spread and testing of COVID-19 on campus.

BC’s success during the fall semester is all the more impressive considering the failed attempts of other universities to remain open for in-person classes for the entire semester. Universities including UNC, which canceled all in-person classes for the semester during their second week of classes; the University of Notre Dame, which temporarily suspended in-person classes for two weeks at the beginning of the semester; and Providence College, which moved to all-remote classes a week earlier than it originally planned in November, are evidence of what happens when poor leadership and planning are in place.

Despite the University’s efforts, the fall semester was still a very difficult one, as every member of the BC community had to make sacrifices in order to keep the campus open. Students found themselves in quarantine and isolation for weeks at a time, while trying to retain some semblance of college life under numerous COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines. The administration deserves praise for their work this semester, but the perseverance, sacrifice, and responsibility that students, faculty, and staff exhibited are equally as commendable. 

BC should continue with the practices and policies that made the fall semester successful, and learn from its mistakes, so that the in-person spring semester can run seamlessly.

A group of Heights editors who are committed to participating in the consistent writing of editorials comprise the editorial board. Editors who report on topics discussed in editorials are not permitted to participate in the discussion or writing of the editorial.

Members: Owen Fahy, Madeleine Romance, Lauren Wittenmyer, Margaret DiPatri, Grace Mayer, Rachel Phelan, Gabriel Wallen, Olivia Franceschini, and Eric Shea

December 31, 2020