Living on campus with no knowledge of COVID-19 statistics? Crazy!

The+Alabama+Department+of+Public+Health

The Alabama Department of Public Health

Micah Sanders, Editor-In-Chief

The right to know, the need to know, and the want to know are all variations of U.S. principles pertaining to disseminating information to the public. However, at the illustrious Alabama State University, some of the information and knowledge that is of the utmost importance and safety for the student body is withheld. From numerous increases in student balances to very dangerous and life-altering viruses, the university keeps its students in the dark. 

Infecting the lives of billions globally, the SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) is a highly contested topic. Just in the United States alone, 40.5 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19. As the virus seems to be never-ending with several variants such as Mu, Lambda, and Delta, informing the general public, especially those congested into one small university, on infection rates and cases is imperative. 

As I glided my mouse tracker and typed in numerous public university websites in the state of Alabama, such as Alabama A&M, University of Alabama, and Auburn University, I was bombarded with numerous information regarding COVID-19 on their campuses, in the surrounding community, and in the state. Unfortunately, when I have a pique of interest in knowing my lovely campus’s infection rate, all I can find is a logo that states “Still Mask Mandatory” and a PDF file that has empty information regarding protocols. It is irrational and mind-boggling to learn that numerous students have called the very responsive health center to gain knowledge on their health and safety and were turned away without receiving any vital information regarding COVID-19.

Now, I will give credit where credit is due, and the university has done a great job of inputting posters, hand sanitizer stations, and other safety precautions for its students. However, how can you have one thing without the other? The university spent a large sum of money on ‘innovative’ Dragonfly scanners (hardly in function) that monitor and highlight individuals following the 6 feet protocol and temperature, but they do not want to give out the number of infection rates on campus? Is the number really that high Bama State? That is the only logical explanation I can think of. Obviously, if they were low, I know the administration would jump on broadcasting how safe the university is out to the masses. Yet, whenever something is negative and not in the university’s best light, they make sure to mask the problem in darkness. I have only seen our university’s administration speak on important issues when they blow up in their faces due to the lack of communication and organization, forcing them to address it. 

On top of ASU not being proactive in informing their students, they are taking the initiative to send students home if they are infected. Just imagine all the out-of-state students who traveled over 600 miles plus to attend ASU and how inconvenient it would be to send them packing. If the health center informed students about the numerous hot spots and transmission rates on campus, then maybe they would be a little bit more proactive and cautious about commuting to certain places and events. We are just told to mindlessly “stay aware, stay safe, and stay Hornet strong” without the proper resources to do so. I understand vaccines are available, but with such hesitancy in the Black community, with only 25% vaccinated in Alabama, according to Kaiser Health News, ASU should be taking further preemptive measures and precautions to ensure our safety. It seems the administration spends more time focusing on parking decals and tickets rather than making sure their students are healthy in a deadly pandemic by disseminating COVID-19 statistics.

As of Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, there are 30,330 cases of COVID-19 in Montgomery County. In fact, the county has been listed as a high risk of community transmission. Those statistics do not even include the Labor Day Classic weekend hosted on campus, with the stadium-packed crowd hardly wearing masks and following safety protocols. Additionally, compared to the spring 2021 semester, the campus has fully transitioned back to in-person classes with all previously empty areas refurbished, allowing students to fellowship and socialize. We certainly need to be in the know at all times. 

Looking back at all the things that have transpired here at Alabama State, this has to be at the forefront. All the student body can do right now is wear their mask, wash their hands, and remain 6 feet apart. It is bizarre to hear them turn away students asking for COVID-19 statistics to keep them safe. That is like telling a patient at a hospital, ‘sorry, we can’t release your medical records, but please remain healthy,’ how would the patient know what to avoid and continue doing? 

ASU administration, I urge you to release that information to the student body soon, not only for the well-being of the faculty, staff, and students but also for your reputation and brand as a university. It is crucial you maintain your mission statement of  “Enhancing the quality of life through research and discovery” by allowing students a holistic overview of information and resources encompassing everything from balance increases to COVID-19 statistics.