Now that the almost five-month spring break is coming to a close for returning students, it’s important for us to look to the 2020 Fall semester for how the policies the Texas Tech administration have been strategizing will be implemented. In the midst of a hopefully once in a lifetime event like a global pandemic, just about every school has had to readjust in major ways. While many other colleges and universities across the country have already decided that they will continue with online-only instruction from the spring semester; Tech is among the list of schools that have remained firm on their decision to try to retain a sense of normalcy on campus with in-person and hybrid instruction. These classes have protocols in place to promote social distancing, and they possibly could be the detriment of the Red Raider community as a whole.
After announcing in early June, the plan to return to campus for the fall President Lawrence Schovanec launched the Texas Tech Commitment initiative and website that outlines the plan for COVID-19 procedures being implemented this semester. The website’s individual pages on the plans are pretty barren and can feel like vague, copy and paste statements which could make the implementation harder to imagine. I think the plans are best illustrated in the video series that are on the Tech YouTube channel. It goes over currently nationwide-policies for schools returning like face coverings in all buildings, bolstering of the sanitation department, reduced class sizes, and density of residence halls. These things could work, but we won’t honestly know until we have at least two to three weeks of full-on classes. A strong example which shines a cloudy outlook on this semester finishing in the same state it begins is the case of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The school made national news when it reversed the plans for in-person instruction back to remote learning after only one week of classes due to a major increase in positivity rate which spiked above a safe amount. This example is concerning for Tech students because UNC Chapel Hill implemented most of the same protocols as us which couldn’t hold up in trying to stop the spread of the virus. The blame for their situation can’t rest solely on the failure of their administration and their plan, but some of the blame must shift to those who are ignoring safety protocols like the face covering mandate and maintaining social distancing. UNC Chapel Hill points to images surfacing of large groups of students on or near their campus not wearing masks being a large contributing factor. While I do have more faith in the Red Raider community as a whole to be responsible and follow protocol, just being on campus the week before classes even begun you could see that some people might not be willing to make the sacrifice. The most problematic aspect of this situation is the nature of the virus which can leave many asymptomatic, and those who will get symptoms could be as late as 14 days from exposure. All it would take to put Tech in the same situation as UNC Chapel Hill is someone who tests positive walking into one of our buildings, ignoring protocol, spreading it and creating a cluster of the virus.
This virus has put us all into quite the predicament which has no doubt made 2020 one of the most interesting years for all of us. I believe that Tech’s plan is as solid they could make it while still trying in-person instruction. If the plan were to fail, I think it would be because of negligence and the unwillingness to follow the guidelines. I want us to make it through this semester and for the spirit of the campus to remain intact and not be evaporated by moving back to remote learning. So, I am closing with a call to action for all Red Raiders and the Lubbock community as a whole to mask up, maintain social distancing and stay safe.