EDITORIAL: University must provide clear guidance, transparency for the safety of all

(Dalton Wainscott | Collegian Media Group)

Just over a week ago, Kansas State opened campus for the fall semester. As expected, cases in the Riley County area began to rise, but the university continues to dodge questions and concerns students are posing about the situation. Instead, they’ve provided students with vague guidelines and irresolute outlines on the gating criteria for what feels like an unavoidable return to online classes.

K-State needs not only to take responsibility for its actions, but to show up for its students and provide them with transparency, ample information and well-thought out plans.

The university brought students back to campus in the middle of a global pandemic without direct guidance, risking the health and lives of students, faculty, staff and community members.

Students traveled to Manhattan from around the world, and with some of them came COVID-19. Those living in dorms weren’t given the chance to isolate themselves for two weeks: residence halls opened a week prior to the start of the fall semester, and many students didn’t begin to move in until the weekend before classes started.

This is a prime example of poor planning.

It is easy to say “wear a mask” and “wash your hands” to students, but difficult to enforce those rules. It is also hard to convince students to isolate or quarantine when they know their grades may be on the line.

Riley County’s COVID-19 positive case count increased by over 100 cases since school began. In the first week of classes, 63 positive cases are associated with the university.

Additionally, Riley County identified a fraternity as the source of an outbreak. While the university is unaffiliated with Greek life, the members are still K-State students. K-State is responsible for bringing those students back to Manhattan, and as a consequence, they contracted the virus.

Wearing a face covering is required in all shared spaces on campus, but students can be seen walking about in groups with no masks. Signage and education is great, but how can the university expect students to follow rules that aren’t enforced?

In addition, those rules are only limited to campus. Students venture off campus to party, eat and socialize. When students return to campus, COVID-19 returns with them.

The health department ordered O’Malley’s and O’Malley’s Alley to close for multiple ordinance violations, but the bar reopened a few short days later. House parties can be seen around campus all weekend. Nothing will stop students from going to bars, house parties or other off-campus events.

All these issues could easily be resolved with clear guidance from the university. K-State must provide clear guidance on testing, isolation, quarantine and mask wearing, as well as transparency regarding positive COVID-19 tests to help students and the university in the long run.

The views and opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the Collegian editorial board. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.