The Coronavirus on College Campuses

by Julia Dickinson

News

October 26, 2020
A poster from BU’s Don’t Go Viral campaign appears on a recycling bin near BUA. Luke Hargrave for The Scarlet Letter

Boston University Academy’s location in the middle of Boston University’s main campus provides an amazing opportunity for BUA students to be immersed in BU’s resources. The connection between our high school and the surrounding university has only strengthened during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are closer to BU than ever before, with many of us relying on BU’s resources to receive coronavirus testing twice a week like any on-campus undergrad, but some members of our community now worry about our close relationship with BU. 

By this point, reports of college students being sent home for violating COVID-19 safety guidelines have become commonplace in the news, sometimes even reaching top headlines across the country. It seems that protocols are being broken in colleges across America, and BU is among them.1 Naturally, the recklessness raises concerns: parents are worried about their college-aged children, college communities are scared of becoming a hotspot, and at BUA, we become more careful around campus. It is unclear how much we can trust college students to uphold COVID-19 safety guidelines.

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), students were moved to online coursework after just a week of classes because of a rapid increase in COVID cases induced by large gatherings of students.2 Although at this moment, case rates are higher in the southern parts of the country than around here, the rules are being breached in Boston-area colleges as well. A month ago, Northeastern University sent home eleven students for holding a gathering that broke the school’s COVID-19 guidelines.3

But why would college students be so careless in the midst of a pandemic? Some of the reasons stem from the same feelings that we BUA students have experienced. Similar to us, they stayed indoors for six months without social interaction. The contrast for them to the times before is even greater than what we experienced, given that they typically live at school and are around their friends every day. Simply put, college students missed their friends and wanted to bond with them again like old times. They neglected to take into account that circumstances have shifted drastically; often what was considered normal is out of the question now. Today, mask wearing, social distancing, and proper ventilation, among other precautions, are required for people to safely meet in groups. College students’ eagerness to see their friends may have led them to make the shortsighted decision to completely disregard safety measures. They may even think that the one gathering they attend can’t possibly do damage. They are wrong. At UNC, the hotspot caused an uptick of cases in the local area.2 On a greater scale, the rate at which people ages twenty to thirty-nine have tested positive has significantly increased since June, coming to make up over 20% of total positive COVID-19 cases.4 College-aged students are not immune.

BU itself has struggled to enforce coronavirus protocols. There have been multiple off-campus gatherings that violated COVID-19 guidelines, often associated with Greek life groups, such as the fraternity Phi Chi Theta.1 In recent weeks, the number of students not in compliance with testing and daily attestations has increased.5 As students are becoming more adjusted to the new way of campus life, they have become less careful, in part on the rationalization that because BU’s positivity rate has so far been staying low, it will continue to do so regardless of individual actions. There’s reason, though, to not lose all hope in BU students. Students have not only been using BU’s hotline number to report unsafe social gatherings, but they have also been using social media to call out their peers.1 It seems that most students do care about staying on campus after all.

As BUA students, we occupy an unique position in that we’re not college students, but we are around college students up to four days a week. It can be hard to judge whether being a part of the wider BU community is truly safe. At the moment, the data at BU show that the cumulative campus coronavirus positivity rate from July 27 onward is under 0.1 percent; what matters now is that we continue to keep the count low.6 So even though we’re not college students, please wear your mask, practice social distancing, complete your tests and daily attestations, and do whatever you can to make BUA a safer place. 


1 Doug Most, “Group Gatherings Increase on and around Campus. But So Does Reporting Them,” BU Today, September 17, 2020,
https://www.bu.edu/articles/2020/gatherings-increase-on-campus-but-so-does-reporting-them/.

2 Richard Fausett, “Outbreaks Drive U.N.C. Chapel Hill Online After a Week of Classes,” The New York Times, August 17, 2020,
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/17/us/unc-chapel-hill-covid.html.

3 Ian Thomsen, “Northeastern Dismisses 11 Students For Gathering in Violation of COVID-19 Policies,” News @ Northeastern, September 4, 2020,
https://news.northeastern.edu/2020/09/04/northeastern-dismisses-11-students-for-gathering-in-violation-of-covid-19-policies/.

4 Boehmer TK, DeVies J, Caruso E, et al., “Changing Age Distribution of the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, May–August 2020,” CDC, September 23, 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6939e1.htm#suggestedcitation.

5 Rich Barlow, “Rise in BU’s COVID-19 Cases Prompts Stricter Measures,” BU Today, October 20, 2020,
https://www.bu.edu/articles/2020/rise-in-bu-covid-19-cases-prompts-stricter-measures/.

6 “BU COVID-19 Testing Data Dashboard,” Boston University Healthway, accessed October 25, 2020,
https://www.bu.edu/healthway/community-dashboard/.

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