By: Samantha Ewing ’23 (she/her), SGA Correspendent
On Wednesday, February 17th, the SGA hosted an hour-long Zoom town hall meeting with a handful of members from Davidson’s COVID-19 Response Team. Sophomore Class President Israel Palencia ‘23 and Sophomore Senator Wren Healy ‘23 moderated a panel comprised of President Carol Quillen, Dean Byron McCrae, Athletic Director Chris Clunie ’06, and Chair of the COVID Response Team Dr. Robert Lutz. The SGA solicited questions from Davidson students through a Google Form sent before the event; the form received 116 responses.
The following is a summary of the event — the questions that were asked and the responses from the panelists.
What is being done differently this semester following the large outbreak on campus?
How Davidson prepared for this semester was different because of students traveling back to campus and the higher levels of COVID across the country. Similar from last semester, students have not been allowed to have any guests since their arrival on campus. One thing that is new this semester is the increased frequency of COVID testing: the school required pre-arrival testing, on-site testing, and testing twice a week after arrival.
Another change this semester is that students are tested for COVID before being put into quarantine once they’re contact traced. Last semester, students would just be put into quarantine immediately. This way, however, allows the school to expand the circle of contact tracing.
The school believes that the bad weather correlates with positive tests since it has caused more people to hang out inside. The school has tried to make more outdoor options available this semester, such as the tent behind Commons and the new outdoor gym behind the Union Building.
When will students be able to receive vaccines?
There is no estimate on that.
Other schools have cancelled athletics due to new variants and the faster spread of COVID. How did Davidson make the decision to continue athletics this semester?
Last fall, we had men’s and women’s basketball competing, and that’s it. Now we have many more teams on campus participating, the school believes in the educational value in athletics, so Davidson commits to it as long as we are doing it in the safest way possible.
There are students who feel like the rest of the community are doing their part more. How can we build trust with the athletic department?
Most athletes are actually doing the right thing. The spread of COVID is not from practices; rather, a few scholar athletes who are breaking the rules and going off campus. Davidson’s Athletic Department has taken many precautions to hold practices safely this semester. Most teams have not used shared locker rooms this semester in an attempt to increase social distancing, the scheduling for training rooms has been limited, and equipment is sanitized after each use. Practice schedules have also been restructured.
For more details on the precautions taken by the Athletics Department specifically, there are notes published in the Davidsonian SGA 2/4/21 update when Mr. Clunie came to a meeting for a Q&A about COVID in Athletes specifically.
Athletic competition is not causing COVID spread on campus and if it were, the school wouldn’t be proceeding with it. There are other activities happening in person with special accommodations to prevent spread as well: research labs, theatre performances, jazz band and orchestra rehearsals, and chorale. Many of these activities were deemed impossible to do online, yet integral to the Davidson experience.
Will students get in trouble for breaking policy if they report a Title IX complaint?
If a student experiences harassment or mistreatment, they can come forward for support without consequences for breaking COVID protocol.
What is the school doing for the mental health of the student body?
The school is continuing with a lot of the mental health resources offered to students last semester. There are counseling groups set up through the Center for Student Health and Well-Being as well as the opportunity to have individual counseling appointments over zoom. Additionally, Davidson has been actively working to find partnerships with mental health platforms like calm.com for guided meditations. Additionally, Dean McCrae cited the work and conversations with the Faculty Executive Committee to lessen graduation requirements as part of the way that the school is trying to alleviate student’s academic stress.
Lastly, Davidson is encouraging students to socialize by participating in COVID-safe outdoor activities set up by clubs and organizations here on campus. For example, Davidson Outdoors is doing local hikes and biking trips, and the BSC is planning events such as outdoor movie nights.