Since Fairfield University has shifted back to fully in-person learning for undergraduate students as of the Fall 2021 semester, the University has changed their procedures, should students test positive for COVID-19.
Weekly surveillance testing is no longer mandated for vaccinated students, though unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated students must continue to get tested. Should a student test positive in an off campus facility, they are to submit documentation of their positive test to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As per the Frequently Asked Questions page of Fairfield’s official website, “The University will not be offering isolation or quarantine [housing] during the semester,” and students have been directed to develop a plan prior to returning to campus in the fall, should they need to go into isolation or quarantine.
Fairfield has left rooms open in the old Charles F. Dolan School of Business, now known as the Conference Center, should students need quarantine/isolation housing. However, The Mirror reported in late October that after the first 24 hours of testing positive or being contact-traced, students must pay $200 a night to use these on-campus facilities.
In terms of academics, students who test positive are left with limited options.
Although the University relied heavily on Zoom and other video-conferencing software in the past, this summer it was announced that Fairfield would be planning for in-person learning experiences, therefore remote learning would not be available to students.
“As is the case when students must miss class for medical/health-related reasons, students are responsible for making up missed work and should consult with their instructor(s) on how best to get caught up in their course(s),” reads fairfield.edu.
Vice President of Marketing and Communication, Jennifer Anderson, justifies this decision saying, “Fairfield University heard from students, families and faculty a strong desire to return to full in-person learning for the 21-22 academic year.”
Though this may be the case, professors have voiced their opinions regarding faculty being barred from utilizing Zoom technology for COVID-positive students.
Professor of religious studies at Fairfield, Ellen M. Umansky, Ph. D., disapproves of the administration’s policy.
“I strongly believe that students who test positive for COVID, as well as students who are too sick to go to class because of a cold, flu etc., should be able to attend class on Zoom,” said Umansky.
“Given the fact that students who are sick for any number of reasons (including COVID-19) are told by the Health Center that they shouldn’t attend class until they’re well, why shouldn’t they, if they feel well enough, be able to attend classes virtually?” Umansky continued, “We learned a great deal pedagogically last year about the opportunities that Zoom creates. We also learned that students who test positive for COVID may be well enough, and want to, attend classes virtually. Why not continue to put that which we have learned since March of 2020 into practice?”
Associate professor of communication, Adam Rugg Ph. D., understands the University’s hesitancy to return to remote learning, as someone who researches and teaches on the relationship between technology and society.
“I support the policy of preserving our courses as in-person only environments as I believe it maximizes the educational value that students will receive,” Rugg said.
There is one caveat to his standpoint, however.
Rugg continues to say, “At the same time, I believe instructors must be flexible and accommodating with their students who are unable to attend class due to a positive Covid-19 test.”
Students who test positive with COVID-19 are advised by Anderson to treat it consistently “with Fairfield’s policy on extended absences,” meaning that, “students who are required to isolate or quarantine due to Covid-19 this fall are advised to work with their faculty members on a specific plan to meet the needs of the student until their return to in-person instruction is possible.”
Anderson then went on to cite Fairfield’s high vaccination rate, with 93.3 percent of students, faculty and staff vaccinated, though she did not mention the fact that breakthrough cases are still a concern.
“Although the majority of the university is vaccinated, COVID is still affecting many students,” said Stephanie Prado ’22.
Prado also advocates for remote learning options for students that may need it.
“Even though students should not be going to class if they feel sick, if there is no online option, there is a higher chance that sick students will go to class to prevent falling behind,” Prado said. “I believe that a zoom option is beneficial to everyone as it prevents students from falling behind or going to class while sick.”
Sophomore Myles Gorski echoes these sentiments.
“It’s very hard to make up work after missing classes, but with the virtual option there is not a reason to miss class,” Gorski said. “With remote classes it is a lot easier to still learn the coursework while you’re sick, or even if there is a period when you need to go home.”
As of right now, it is unclear how the University will deal with cases of students who may test positive and may miss final exams.
Anderson did not respond to The Mirror’s question of how the University will handle students who test positive during finals week.
Per guidance from the Health Center, within 90 days of being infected with COVID-19, students should not receive a Coronavirus test, in the event that they are selected for surveillance testing or otherwise. This is because the student can still yield a positive test up to 90 days after contracting COVID-19. By submitting a copy of a positive test to the school, students will be exempted from testing.
Masks are still mandated in all indoor facilities on campus and students must still abide by the University’s COVID-19 directives.