The Fairfield University community was approximately 91% vaccinated against COVID-19 as of September 17, when these statistics were last updated online. I appreciate the fact that Fairfield feels comfortable enough with this generally high percentage to not mandate vaccinations, but the remaining nine percent is certainly looming in my mind.
Although professors are not given lists naming unvaccinated students on their roster, they are given a percentage of students in each of their courses who are vaccinated. This number has been worthy of comments and discussion in many of my classes, generating mixed opinions.
I feel rather safe in class, since all of my instructors are extremely diligent with enforcing mask mandates. I am comfortable wearing a mask, as it has been the status quo for the past year and a half now, however I do feel frustrated with the amount of students who are packed into small classrooms. Just last academic year, classroom capacities were reduced to a fraction of what they are now. These changes were justified by COVID-19 precautions, yet according to the New York Times, on Sept. 7, 2021 (the first day of classes) there were 337 new COVID-19 cases in Fairfield County alone. On that same date in 2020, there were zero new cases in the county. This suggests that Fairfield University has altered their policies based on their desire to return back to ‘normal,’ rather than on what is safest for their students.
Though I wish that all students at Fairfield University would get vaccinated for the sake of myself and all of Fairfield University, I take greater issue with how the University has forced its students to return to the classroom with absolutely no regard for social distancing. This problem has been exacerbated as each incoming class at the university is larger than the one before, yet our learning spaces are the same size that they have always been.
Beyond the public health complication that this claustrophobic environment fosters, Fairfield’s hypocrisy is the most glaring issue here. If anything, they should be more cautious than in past semesters in terms of the precautionary measures that they are choosing to take.
Now more than ever Zoom class should be an option for students because without it, students may feel compelled to come to class even if they are not feeling well for fear of missing important notes or lectures. Those who suffer the brunt of this poor planning on an administrative level are the vaccinated, who have done all they can do to protect themselves, and still are made vulnerable due to shortcomings from the school.
With less than one week of classes behind me, I have received two emails from the school notifying me of positive cases within my class sections. These emails let me know that since I was fully vaccinated, I “should receive a Covid-19 test” at the Rec Plex Field House and that it was “strongly recommended, but not required.” In contrast, the protocol for unvaccinated students was more stringent, mandating them to take two tests throughout the week.
I believe that this strong suggestion for vaccinated students should become a mandate. With the Coronavirus variants circulating, breakthrough cases are becoming more common. It would be wrong of me to speculate that these positive cases were fully among the unvaccinated population, however I cannot help but think that those unprotected individuals contributed in some way to these case surges, and mandatory testing in some capacity seem like a good idea.
To an extent, I blame my unvaccinated peers for the continued obstacles that I need to face at Fairfield, but I do believe that the accountability falls on the University to make decisions that advocate for the best interest of the student body as a whole.