After the mess that was NC State’s fall semester, it was clear to everyone that some big changes needed to be made in order to keep the student body on campus in the spring. At the start of January, NC State sent out an email to students highlighting some of the new regulations that were being implemented for the upcoming semester.
I was beyond thrilled for the changes they detailed in their email. Return-to-campus testing along with surveillance testing was something we desperately needed last semester, so it was nice to see the University was finally pushing for a more proactive agenda. As a result, so many cases were caught before students moved in, minimizing the amount of COVID-19 carriers that were entering campus. The University also reduced the student capacity by half, which resulted in an almost natural social-distancing effect.
With all these big changes being made, things were starting to make a little bit more sense. I was, admittedly, somewhat impressed. There was a logical flow to this system, and it definitely appeared to be the right way to combat the cluster crisis we saw in the fall. That being said, I still find myself questioning the logic behind some of the new, and decidedly more subtle, policies implemented this semester.
Now, I would like to preface this by saying that I don’t consider this logical inconsistency as being anything more than just a little annoying. It’s one of those issues you’ll roll your eyes about and then, probably, just get on with your day. It’s nowhere near being the end of the world, but I do believe it’s worth mentioning at the cost of a few hundred words.
That being said, I do believe inconsistency was overlooked upon implementing the new systems for this semester. Different areas on campus have different policies in place, all of which are fighting the virus in different ways. As endearing as this might seem, it just doesn’t matter if one spot on campus is on top of their game if another, more popular, location isn’t enforcing similar regulations or rules.
Take for instance the NC State University Libraries (specifically, D.H. Hill Jr. Library) and Talley Student Union. Both are integral to academic life, but Talley is typically more of a “hotspot” for student traffic.
Even though Talley garners the most attention, when you look at the COVID-19 policies for each of the locations, it's surprising how much they actually differ.
At the library, they have staff patrol each floor to make sure no one sits any closer than 6 feet from another student. At Talley, you can get away with sitting six people at one table, masks on or off depending on what you’re doing.
It’s not like there’s anything inherently wrong with either approach. It’s more so the fact that these approaches are so different that make it an issue. I think it’s safe to assume that the risk of studying next to someone at the library (with masks on, mind you) is much lower compared to the risk of eating with a group of four or five people at Talley.
This inconsistency gives off the impression that the University is paying more attention to our social lives than our academic endeavors. I don’t think this is actually the case, but it’s a little annoying to know it’s a little more difficult to study with a classmate than it is to socialize with a group of friends.
I’m by no means advocating for NC State to crack down on what happens at Talley. I believe that, given the current circumstances, we are faring quite well for ourselves. I do think there was a sort of bounded awareness, though, when the plans for the spring semester were being made. It’s almost as if different areas of campus are working on their own agenda rather than as one cohesive unit, which has the potential to cause greater problems in the future.
So, what do I think needs to be done? Well, for one thing, communication needs to be made a priority between departments/resources here at NC State. I don’t believe these differences were intentional because it wouldn’t make sense that the stricter policies were implemented only at the library on purpose.
I also think that the NC State University Libraries and Talley need to change their capacity and enforcement policies. The libraries should increase the number of people who can sit near each other/work together, and Talley should better enforce the number of people who can be grouped together at once. It’s a bit ridiculous that literally 10 people can be seated together at one table, but you can’t work with even a single classmate at any of the library locations.
COVID-19 vaccines are being administered as we speak. Things are getting better, but we should still be wary of any potential consequences that may come with these small inconsistencies. I appreciate the way the University has handled the COVID-19 crisis, but I also understand improvements can always be made. Like many of my peers, I have high hopes for the fall 2021 semester, but in order to make it there, we need to first finish this semester strong.