BEREA, Ky. (LEX 18) — In an email to students, Berea College President Lyle Roelofs announced students who test positive could face withdrawal for the semester.
The new policy explained that testing positive requires a 10-day quarantine, and without the ability to go to classes during that time, a student could have trouble completing courses. Therefore, they may need to withdraw and return home.
LEX18 asked the College to elaborate on when a decision would be made on a withdrawal and Roelofs responded in a statement that said, "We will evaluate each individual situation. Factors that need to be considered include the nature of the courses in which the student is enrolled, how much flexibility there is in meeting academic requirements in the course, and even when in the semester the quarantine occurs."
The statement went on to say, "Delays in academic progress are unfortunate, and we will avoid them if at all possible. We also need to acknowledge, however, the reality of quarantine, its necessity for protecting the health and well-being of other students and employees, and its potential impact on academic progress."
Roelofs also noted there would be no financial consequences and that students could return the following semester.
"I don't think it's a fair policy," student Brandon Nichols said. "I don't think they thought it through very well."
Junior Brandon Nichols believes that even with precautions in place, contracting COVID-19 on campus seems almost inevitable with the rise of the Delta variant. He said facing potential withdrawal for the semester for testing positive is too severe.
"This is not the appropriate answer," he said.
He believes faculty should be required to work with students who test positive on a solution for getting classwork done.
"I think most of the professors should have the common courtesy, even in a lab situation, to do everything they can to ensure their students' success, and a student who is ill should do everything they can to try to keep in active communication to make sure they do everything in their power to keep up," he said. "If there are accommodations to be made, they need to be made. Maybe having to do labs individually or on a weekend and makeup missed work."
Freshman Rashana Temple said she isn't willing to put off school since her program already requires five years to complete. If she had to withdraw for the semester, she may never come back.
"I might go elsewhere because it's important for me to be able to become an adult, start my career," she said.
However, students like Oze Egure said she understands the College's policy and believes it's a reasonable solution for battling the pandemic.
"We're in a red zone," Egure said. "And being a nursing major, I understand the safety of the students. It's just unfortunate circumstances that I think nobody can really control but the school is trying to do what's best or what's best to their ability."
When asked about online courses as an alternative, a spokeswoman for Berea College responded, "It is possible in some courses, depending on the nature of the course and the material, for a student to attend classes virtually during a 10-day quarantine. However, our faculty has not designed courses for this semester to be taught in hybrid fashion that would simultaneously meet the academic needs of in-person students and remote students."
She also said, "Berea College has SACSCOC certification to provide both in-person instruction and distance-learning instruction. High-quality, face-to-face teaching, and learning have proven most effective for the student population we serve. With our high vaccination rates for students and employees, we can more confidently return to the Berea way of instruction, which is in person."
Below is President Roelofs statement in full regarding the new COVID-19 withdrawal policy:
"This is an extremely challenging time in our state and more immediate region as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic because of increasing rates of new infections and a local vaccination rate that is far too low to prevent outbreaks. On campus, on the other hand, thanks to a vaccination mandate for our students and strong encouragement for faculty and staff to be vaccinated, we are at about a 95% fully vaccinated percentage. Our challenge, therefore, is to prevent the rather high and increasing rate of cases in our area from entering the campus and causing difficulty for our employees and students.
Throughout the pandemic, Berea College has put in place policies for our students and employees to limit the spread of infection within the campus community, and we have also provided advice to members of the campus community for how their individual choices, particularly with respect to participating in activities off campus, can affect the probability that they might become infected with COVID-19.
Of course, when positive tests occur, we need to follow the direction of the local public health officials and the advice of the CDC. In almost all cases, quarantine is mandated usually for a 10-day period. Quarantine is challenging for both employees and students. Employees need to take sick leave, and supervisors need to ensure that necessary work gets done somehow. Students quarantining are not able to attend class, and, of course, that can impact their ability to successfully complete the academic requirements in their courses.
When a student tests positive and quarantine is mandated, we will evaluate each individual situation. Factors that need to be considered include the nature of the courses in which the student is enrolled, how much flexibility there is in meeting academic requirements in the course, and even when in the semester the quarantine occurs. If the quarantine period would not allow the student to be successful in classes and labs for the current semester, options will include withdrawing from a class, or taking a leave for the remainder of the semester. There would be no financial consequences in such a case, and the student would be eligible to return to continue studies the next semester. Delays in academic progress are unfortunate, and we will avoid them if at all possible. We also need to acknowledge, however, the reality of quarantine, its necessity for protecting the health and well-being of other students and employees, and its potential impact on academic progress."