By Sophie Lincoln
Before the rest of Cal Poly’s in-person campus community returned for classes this fall, some students and professors who participated in the university’s quarter plus program were concerned after an alleged lack of clear COVID-19 protocols during the summer program.
Some concerns among professors and students during Cal Poly’s summer program included a lack of clear protocols regarding mask wearing, testing and informing the campus community of potential exposures.
This is according to public speaking Professor John Patrick, who taught an in-person class during the summer program.
Patrick said he was initially told by the university that face coverings were not required indoors as long as there was enough social distancing in the classes.
This was later contradicted by an email from the Cal Poly President’s Office, which stated that everyone indoors in common areas had to be masked.
“So, that was sort of just like a conflict of communication there. Obviously, the President’s Office email should supersede that directive, but the fact that the chain of command all the way down wasn’t on the same page I think created confusion for a lot of folks,” Patrick said.
Patrick said the program initially also lacked measures such as providing hand sanitizer in classrooms and instructions for checking students’ green passes, which confirm whether students are allowed to be on campus based on testing requirements.
One of the greater concerns Patrick faced during Quarter Plus was a lack of communication from the university when students tested positive for the virus.
“The biggest issue with quarter plus was the fact that rumors were swirling about potential exposure,” Patrick said.
In an email, University Spokesperson Matt Lazier wrote that there are times when the university is unable to identify specific programs or other groupings that might experience students testing positive, as it can run the risk of the university inadvertently identifying or facilitating the identification of individual students who have become infected, which could lead to a medical privacy violation.
Lazier also wrote that generally speaking, the university would only be permitted to inform a faculty member of a student’s positive test if it is determined that there was a potential exposure.
These rumors of exposure and other inconsistencies in communication during quarter plus ultimately led Patrick to schedule a meeting to express his concerns and suggest potential solutions to administration, which he said he felt were well-received but lacked follow-through.
“I don’t believe that our administrators are out here, trying to not be forthright. but i also think that they’re trying to protect the university, and sometimes trying to protect the university means not protecting faculty to the fullest or not protecting students to the fullest,” Patrick said.
But while Patrick and other professors lacked some information regarding COVID-19 precautions, a group that was even less informed was the Cal Poly students participated in quarter plus.
“I actually never remember getting a single email or any kind of contact from the school itself about anything related to covid before the ‘you need to have a negative test within 72 hours of moving in,’” environmental management and protection freshman Anna Hickey said.
Similar to Patrick, hickey also heard the rumors of students receiving positive tests, which she said was nerve-wracking for many of her peers.
“A lot of it was just word of mouth, which created a lot of panic because, a lot of the people who were testing positive were already vaccinated,” Hickey said.
Hickey said that while she has seen some improvements since fall quarter started, she still thinks there is more the university should be doing, and fears the way that Cal Poly is handling COVID could lead to a return to virtual learning.
“I think it’s the same thing that we’ve seen throughout the United States and throughout the world, which is just poor handling of covid extends the life that it has.”