Administration announces COVID plan

VPs Price and Jordan outline isolation, contact tracing procedures

Kyle Morrison, News Editor

Seattle Pacific University will be one of many institutions attempting to reopen their campus in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a normal year, welcoming new students back into dormitory halls and on campus apartments in the fall is an exciting and happy time around colleges nationwide.

This year across the country and at SPU, a time that is normally marked by laughter, anticipation, and countless people asking each other what they are majoring in, has been replaced by concern for viral transmission.

On the morning of September 4th, Jeff Jordan, SPU’s Vice President of Student Life, had a phone call with Vice President of the United States Mike Pence, as well as other college administrators as they discussed, amongst other things, the COVID-19 outbreak at the University Of Notre Dame where 8% of the student body tested positive for the virus (South Bend Tribune). 

In order for SPU to have a successful fall quarter, Jeff Jordan believes that students will have to take it upon themselves to keep COVID-19 transmission low. 

“First and foremost I’m relying on our students to abide by the guidelines,” said Jordan over Zoom. “One of the things I heard this morning from a number of the speakers (at the White House briefing) is that what really worked and worked well is when students said, ‘We own this and we are going to make sure this works for us, because we want to be together.”

One of the major drivers in bringing students back on campus, is the return of limited in person classes. While Jeff Jordan will oversee much of the process revolving around getting students back into SPU residential areas, Cindy Price, the Vice Provost of Academic Affairs, will be tasked with figuring out how to navigate classes during the pandemic.

“We like doing it this way better (in person classes). It‘s what we’re trained for, but I don’t know if that’s always sufficient in this environment,” said Price over Zoom. “I think the real driver is that students wanted it that way, that is really what we heard.”

While SPU hopes that their plan will hold up through Fall quarter, they are also preparing for the possibility of positive cases amongst students, as well as the bleaker possibility of an outbreak.

“If someone is COVID positive, from the test, or someone who has come in close contact and there is reason to believe they should go into isolation, we have a system set up in regards to getting that student where they need to be, we have places on campus to provide isolation units,” said Jordan.

Jordan also explained that SPU has enlisted more than a dozen Johns Hopkins University approved contact tracers, to help identify outbreaks and cases before they spiral out of control.

SPU will take two approaches when dealing with potential and confirmed COVID-19 cases.  

Students who are sick but unsure if it is COVID-19 will be quarantined in their room. Students who have tested positive or come in close contact with someone who tested positive will isolate in undisclosed locations on campus.

One area of ambiguity is in regards to students suspected of coming in contact with someone who has COVID, who live in dorms with communal style bathrooms, such as Ashton or Hill. As of right now, Jordan is unsure of whether or not those students will still be allowed to use the same bathroom as the rest of their floormates. 

“It might depend on how a student is feeling, it might depend on defining close contact and for how long is also a part of that, another part of that is what is available as far as units for isolation,” said Jordan. “So that gets a little more difficult, but we would be taking it very seriously, there is no question about that.”

As students make their transition into the socially distant reality of life on campus, mental health will be a major issue across campus, and it’s something administration is very cognizant of. 

“I think for people in their twenties it’s particularly hard,” said Price. “We talk about emotional health, spiritual health, there are a lot of options on campus you have access to, so I think for students I think it’s going to be a need to be proactive to figure these things out and find people who can help.”

Both Price and Jordan prioritized exercise as a great way to maintain mental health, with Jordan going as far as jokingly lamenting the fact he couldn’t require students to go out and exercise. 

If students are going to use exercise as a mental escape, they will have to do it outside or off campus, as all dorm rec centers, as well as the Royal Brougham gym will be closed. 

While it may look much more different than what many college students and faculty at SPU and across the country are used too, students will be returning to campus this fall, which is still instilling excitement amongst those who have worked so hard to make this day a possibility.

“I have been doing this for 30 plus years and September is always the best,” Price exclaimed. “There is nothing that makes me happier than seeing students on campus, and we will actually have quite a few students on campus this year.”