Student Thoughts on COVID-19 Responses for the Winter Quarter
By Emmett Pennington-Guthrie
COVID-19 cases are a real concern on campus. There are 32 active cases and 112 resolved cases as of Jan. 21.  The Collegian reached out to students to find out how they felt about the school handling COVID-19.
COVID-19 on campus is especially important for students such as Rachel Hare, a freshman psychology major who is immunocompromised. Hare expressed concerns about catching COVID-19, which she fears could become more likely should cases continue increasing on campus. 
Hare’s current stance is that “depending on if [cases] keep getting worse, we should definitely go online and nip it in the bud,” but she feels that cases are starting to get better. Hare clarified that she believes going online is something we would likely only need to do for a short time before returning to normal to get cases under control. 
Violet Lopez, another freshman psychology major, agreed that with rising case numbers, it “might be safer for the majority to go online,” although she also feels that going online would be detrimental because she does not learn well with online classes. 
She certainly is not alone with that sentiment. Lukai Webley, freshman nursing major, agreed that “not everybody can learn online, and it makes things difficult for the learning environment.” Webley additionally noted that “when quarantine started and everyone went online, people’s grades dropped.” 
In fact, a study by researchers at Columbia University found that online courses decreased the chances of students persisting with a course and led to lower grades for the students who completed their courses. 
Rajen Patel, sophomore education major, said that COVID-19 could “hit a point where it becomes necessary [to go online],” because while he does not like the idea of being forced back online, he “doesn’t want to put anyone’s actual health in danger.” 
The problem for Patel lies in weighing the benefits of going online with the downsides of online learning. He believes that online learning makes it far more difficult to stay motivated, and as such, he is hesitant to move immediately away from in-person learning.
Because of the benefits of staying in-person, it is important to ask just how much moving to remote learning would lessen cases. This problem is part of why Ken Norton, junior information systems major, believes online learning is not something that WWU should move toward. 
Norton does not feel that moving online would help reduce cases significantly, and he emphasized that it could do more harm than good to make big changes in the middle of the term. 
A video recently sent out by the University supports Norton’s view. President McVay stated in the video that the University’s contact tracing reveals COVID-19 to be spread generally by “informal gatherings among friends and acquaintances.” 
What Norton suggested is that the University look toward the cafeteria to reduce cases, as he points out that “COVID-19 doesn’t go away when you sit down to eat,” and that people can sit within a few feet of each other for prolonged periods of time unmasked, which makes the cafeteria seem like a likely spot for COVID-19 to be spread. 
Closing the cafeteria or making it all take-out might be seen as a less disruptive solution than going to online learning.
Before moving classes online, steps that are easy for the school to enact without disturbing students could be considered, such as the suggested cafeteria change. Moreover, everyone interviewed expressed enthusiasm for events like CommUnity being held online.
- (n.d.). COVID-19 cases. Walla Walla University. https://www.wallawalla.edu/news/covid-19-response-information/covid-19-cases/
- Interview with Rachel Hare, 1/20/2022.
- Interview with Violet Lopez, 1/20/2022.
- Interview with Lukai Webley, 1/21/2022.
- (2015, March 30). Students get lower grades in online courses. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2013/12/students-get-lower-grades-in-online-courses
- Interview with Rajen Patel, 1/21/2022.
- Interview with Ken Norton, 1/21/2022.
- (2022, January 13). Winter 2022 covid update. Walla Walla University. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P71Q4T9kga8
- Interview with Ken Norton, 1/21/2022.