UC San Diego is just a few weeks out from fall quarter and hundreds of students and faculty have signed a letter asking the university to drop in-person classes.
Mustafa Kahn, a post-graduate student at UCSD, feels the letter's authors make a valid argument that outbreaks are likely, posing a threat to the community's safety. After all, he pointed out, one doesn't have to look very far to see examples of this at universities a few weeks into the school year.
“We’re already having incidents across the nation where college students are just throwing parties against all these rules. It’s a really difficult population to control to prevent the number of cases,” said Kahn.
Kahn is not the only one who feels this way. Recently, hundreds of faculty and staff signed an open letter to UCSD administration calling for the cancellation of in-person classes and dorm move-ins, where possible.
It also cited the more than 200 students, campus and healthcare employees that have tested positive.
Lara, who only provided her first name, just graduated from UCSD after finishing her senior year online.
“Unless the university administration is absolutely certain about their measures and they have an air-tight strategy to bring people back safely, I think they should postpone,” said Lara.
UCSD has acknowledged it expects positive cases in the fall but that it's Return to Learn plan will lessen the potential for large outbreaks with isolation housing, contact tracing and other measures.
In a statement, a UCSD spokesperson said in part:
“Courses will be delivered predominantly online with about 12% offered in person or in a hybrid format. Students have the choice to live on-campus, off-campus or remain at home, as well as enroll in all remote, hybrid or in-person courses. Instructors of record and TAs have the choice to teach remotely during the fall if they prefer to do so.”
The university’s Return to Learn Plan also includes free Covid-19 tests for students coming to campus (required twice a month), limited class sizes, required masks and social distancing, and the option to take classes in person, hybrid or completely remote.
For Kahn, there are still too many risks.
“Still it’s gonna be difficult because when you have people that are asymptomatic, when you have people that could easily pass a temperature check. You’re playing with fire,” said Kahn.
UCSD is also monitoring wastewater on campus with a system that can detect trace amounts of coronavirus in wastewater, even before symptoms appear.