Information delay: Some students’ isolations ended before professors received emails from Student Life

The Office of Student Life said there has been a backlog of emails sent to professors over the past few weeks due to the volume of requests. (Archive photo by Melanie White | Collegian Media Group)

An email from the Office of Student Life telling Henry Basile’s professors he was spending the next week in quarantine was not what Basile expected to receive as he left an in-person class on a Monday. Lafene Health Center had told Basile, junior in horticulture, he was cleared to go to class, but that message didn’t seem to make it to Student Life.

After he received a COVID-19 test at Lafene on Thursday, Aug. 20, health center officials told Basile they would contact Student Life so he could be excused from classes to quarantine. Before Student Life informed his professors, Basile emailed them himself to ensure they knew about the situation.

“I had not been exposed to anyone with COVID-19, I just had had some symptoms,” Basile said. “Not even a fever, just, like, a cough, some congestion.”

He waited over the weekend for his results and called Lafene Monday. The health center notified Basile that his results had come back negative, and he was cleared for classes.

“Literally, as I’m leaving that class, I get an email sent out to all my professors from the Office of Student Life [saying] that I need to quarantine … until Monday of next week,” Basile said. “The first thing I did is shot an email back their way, and I was like, ‘Hey, can you, like, cancel this,’ because I don’t want to show up to my classes and have my professors turn me around.”

Kansas State has two methods in place for students to receive absence verification for reasons related to COVID-19, Andy Thompson, senior associate dean and director of student life, said. One is through the Student Life website. The second is through direct communication with Lafene, which Basile used.

Trey Kuhlmann, junior in political science, Wildcat 91.9 news director and Collegian Media Group board member, also used the second, direct communication method. After getting tested for COVID-19 on Sept. 3, Kuhlmann entered a quarantine lasting until Sept. 12.

However, the email from Student Life informing professors of Kuhlmann’s quarantine wasn’t received until Sept. 14, two days after he was cleared.

“It was kind of laughable,” Kuhlmann said. “My first response was like, sometimes administration does not do what it’s supposed to. It’s on a lower scale than frustrating. Just sort of like the administration dropped the ball on this somewhere along the way.”

For Sydney Lancaster, sophomore in political science, the experience of receiving late notice from Student Life felt familiar.

Lancaster said she was tested for COVID-19 in early September at Lafene and was told the health center would contact Student Life for her. She didn’t think about it after that.

“Then, at the beginning of this week — I think Monday — I finally got an email from the Office of Student Life notifying me that they just told my professors,” Lancaster said.

Lancaster’s isolation ended on Friday, Sept. 11, the week before this email was received.

“I don’t know what’s going on, but this is really late, and that’s kind of all I really know,” Lancaster said. “The Office of Student Life is always like that though.”

Last year, Lancaster said she had a similar experience after sustaining a concussion, requiring her to miss classes for a period of time.

“It took [Student Life] several days or even a week to let my professors know,” she said.

A delay in notifying professors can be expected for a couple of days after being tested for COVID-19, Thompson said.

“Due to the number of quarantine letter verifications requested, the turnaround time is two to three business days,” Thompson said in an email. “There was a backlog of quarantine letters over the past two weeks due to the volume of requests, but that has now been resolved, and all quarantine letters should be sent in two to three business days.”

Thompson said Lafene faxes information to Student Life at the end of each day.

“It is important to note, the faxes we receive each day are typically for students seen one to two days prior at Lafene, for isolation cases,” he said. “This is due to the time needed to receive lab results back from the COVID test. For quarantine letters, we receive those typically within one business day of the student being seen at Lafene.”

Thompson said results take 24 to 48 hours to come back from the lab.

“There have been some letters which have been delayed due to a variety of factors, but OSL attempts to get all letters out in a timely manner,” Thompson said. “We would like to note, the vast majority of faculty have been amazing in working with the students who are facing isolation or quarantine, and we expect that to continue in the K-State tradition of supporting each other.”

The late letters can hurt some students who need to work or be in class. Kuhlmann said his professors were understanding, but balancing his work at Wildcat 91.9 was more difficult.

“I was not able to pursue my job,” Kuhlmann said. “I did, like, preparing news for other people to deliver while at home, but frankly, I don’t know how well that turned out without me being there.”

Basile said the delay can hurt more than the student who is isolating.

“If I had actually had COVID-19 and just gone to class on Thursday or Friday, [my professors] couldn’t have done anything about it because they wouldn’t have known,” Basile said. “I could have also just been like, ‘Okay, I’m just gonna take a week off of going to classes now.'”

Overall, the system seems too lax, Basile said.

“It’s obvious everyone’s trying to do their part,” Basile said. “But if the emails aren’t being sent out as quickly as possible, I feel like that’s a little bit high-risk.”

My name is Bailey Britton and I am the former editor-in-chief of the Collegian. Previously, I have been the assistant news editor and the managing editor. I have also interned for the Manhattan Mercury and the Colby Free Press. I grew up in Colby, Kansas, and I am a junior in journalism and English. Through the Collegian, I aim to provide the K-State community with quality news coverage while we learn to serve our campus.