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Spikes in COVID cases spark concerns beyond campuses

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 9/15/2020
a man and a woman standing on a sidewalk: Movers for the Piece by Piece Moving company Tahiheo Szytko, left, and Douglas Fernandes bring out empty boxes for students to transport their belongings into the dorm at Boston College last month. © Erin Clark / Globe Staff Movers for the Piece by Piece Moving company Tahiheo Szytko, left, and Douglas Fernandes bring out empty boxes for students to transport their belongings into the dorm at Boston College last month.

Don’t neglect concerns of colleges’ neighbors

Deirdre Fernandes and Laura Krantz do a fine job reporting on the smorgasbord of disciplinary measures area college students are facing when they break rules to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (“COVID crackdowns become rule at colleges,” Page A1, Sept. 10). However, by focusing on campuses and college presidents, they make two serious omissions.

First, given that many students in Greater Boston do not live on campus, they may break rules where they are renting without expecting to be caught. These students' actions put surrounding communities at risk of infection. By the time administrators might learn of infractions, the damage would already have been done, regardless of fines and suspensions. Without including perspectives of those living near these students, Fernandes and Krantz fail to register the impact these behaviors are having on communities beyond the boundaries of specific campuses.

Second, the reporters let elected officials off the hook. For instance, there was no comment from Mayor Marty Walsh on the lack of a citywide policy to regulate behavior across institutions of higher learning. They quote Governor Charlie Baker as saying that “the rules are the rules” and that he feels “terrible for the kids and . . . their families,” without reporting how he feels about the rest of us in the absence of a statewide set of public health policies.

Community members have fought to limit the transmission of the virus over the last six months, only to see the mayor and governor fail to generate sensible policies to hold colleges and universities to the kinds of standards that have made the Commonwealth a model of good government during the pandemic.

Cathy Corman

Brookline

Boston, BC are missing the gravity of this situation

“We’re not in a crisis moment yet,” says Mayor Martin Walsh.

“We have confidence that students living on or off campus will abide by our quarantine and isolation protocols,” says Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn.

Within the same week that we heard Bob Woodward’s recordings of President Trump talking about his response to the coronavirus, the City of Boston and BC are crafting statements sidestepping the reality of a significant outbreak that is staring us in the face (“Broad concern over BC outbreak,” Page A1, Sept. 12). Why? Are they trying to avoid panic? If so, the statements of parents, neighbors, and other students suggest they’re failing.

“I don’t care if you’re the president of the United States or the president of Boston College, the bottom line is, we need more testing," says the father of two BC students, capturing the frustration of the public with our institutional leaders.

What BC has attempted is not working, but I don’t necessarily fault them for that. Yet other Boston schools are testing their entire student body at least twice a week and providing housing to isolate off-campus students who test positive. Can BC’s leaders at least consider adopting from their peers those practices that so far seem to work better, or will they continue to emulate our national leadership’s stubborn unwillingness to both admit to errors and learn from other countries’ successes?

Rick Schrenker

North Reading

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