Uncertainty and caution highlight private universities’ reopening plans in Oregon
Updated: Sep 14
Art by Maizy Goerlitz.
As Willamette students adapt to new routines and new habits in the time of COVID-19, other students across the country are doing the same. While Oregon State University, University of Oregon, Portland State University and the University of Portland all moved online for the fall 2020 semester, Willamette University, Reed College, Lewis & Clark College (L&C) and Pacific University have reopened with hybrid approaches. As Bearcats try to gauge how well they’re being kept safe, they can look at other Oregon colleges that have reopened to compare actions taken.
Face coverings, six feet of distance, dots on the floor marking where to stand, signs marking exits and entrances and online classes being held alongside in-person classes can be seen on opened campuses throughout Oregon. These campuses are also closed to the general public.
Another common theme among reopening colleges is justifying their hybrid approaches with the fact that students want to come to campus. Reed’s justification was based on its students, according to Reed’s Director of Communications and Media Relations Kevin Myers, “Early on we did a survey and overwhelmingly, people wanted to come back to campus.”
Myers also had another reason for why Reed opened it’s campus: “One of the big considerations was for some, not all, but some, coming to campus was going to be a safer place for them… then when we determined this was going to be a 100 students, then it was like we need to have all the same staff. Whether we’re servicing a hundred students or 700 students, we more or less need the same staff. Campus being a safe place for certain students is not isolated to Reed alone. Willamette, Pacific and L&C all likely have students where campus is the safest place for them to be.”
The Pacific Index’s Co-Editors-in-Chief, Ella Cutter and Bren Swogger, both felt that Pacific believed people wanted to come to campus, “I’m really happy to be here and be surrounded by my friends again,” Cutter said, “but I know there are other people who just want everything shut. It really depends person by person.”
According to their reopening website, all L&C students attending in-person classes will have to take a saliva test for COVID-19 within the first few weeks of the semester. L&C will also be sewer testing residence halls. Samples from sewers connecting to residence halls will be tested weekly for COVID-19. Reed’s website says they are using saliva tests as well, but they are testing all students and faculty living on campus twice a week, while testing a pool of about 200 randomly selected students and faculty who go on campus but reside off campus once a week. Pacific has the same approach as Willamette, testing students and faculty in the case of symptoms, but not testing the general population.
L&C’s website and Reed’s website both say they will provide two reusable face masks to all on-campus students, staff and faculty. Meanwhile, Willamette’s website says they will only provide one and only if someone is without a mask. Willamette did hand out one mask to each student during Opening Days, and Colloquium Associates have been given reusable masks to hand out to their Colloquium classes.
Reed made all dorms single occupancy, according to Myers. Reed has also set aside a residence hall for up to 53 students to quarantine in. Comparatively, Willamette has banned triples for this semester andhas “several isolation spaces identified on campus, each with the capacity to hold between 10 and 20 students," according to Don Thompson, the director of Bishop Wellness Center.
Each college’s changes to on-campus dining mirrors the others. At Reed, there are stickers on the floor marking places to stand six feet apart, just like the ones at Goudy Commons. While Reed and L&C both closed their cafes, Pacific kept their coffee shop open like Willamette did. But, Pacific did close their book store and Reed won’t be stocking the convenience store section of their bookstore. Meanwhile, Willamette has kept both its bookstore and the convenience section open.
For student activities, it’s too early to tell exactly what they will be like. All sport competitions have been canceled until January 2021 by the Northwest Conference. Willamette, L&C and Pacific are all part of this conference. Reed has no athletics, since they were banned in Reed’s founding. Pacific student-athletes are practicing unofficially since coaches are not allowed to go on campus to coach, according to Cutter. L&C has not posted anything official on their website about the status of practices, but during athletic department live streams a member of the track team and the women's basketball head coach said team workouts and practices are happening.
Pacific’s website reports that full time students during the 2020-2021 school year will be offered a tuition free semester following their graduation to allow students to partake in student activities or extra coursework that was disrupted for the fall 2020 semester.
There have been difficulties along the way in colleges’ implementation of reopening plans, including wifi issues and figuring out new technology. Pacific’s online class hub, Moodle, crashed at one point. Swogger, who is attending Pacific remotely this fall, reported an issue with a Zoom orientation for remote students: “We went in and we had a bunch of questions… and the hour long zoom meeting answered no questions, we just played name games for an hour. And then at the end everyone was like ‘what about online classes? Do we get any information?’ and the person leading it was like ‘I know nothing.’”
As the fall 2020 semester continues on, these reopening plans will continue to be put into place and tested as students across the state figure out their new routines.