Opinion: Back to School, Back to COVID

Lily Swain '25, Staff Writer

Settling into the Dickinson campus this year was vastly different in terms of COVID compared to last year. As I entered freshman year last fall, I took COVID tests twice before even stepping foot on campus. Masks were required in all buildings, during classes, and even in the dorm buildings. Plus there was random COVID testing after breaks, and free tests for anyone, even asymptomatic people, in the Allison basement. During the spring semester precautions lightened up a bit, but some professors still had mask requirements and testing continued in Allison. 

This semester there is nothing. No testing or mask requirements. No random or open-to-all testing. Just show up and pray you don’t get sick. Dickinson College wants to force students and staff back into “normal life” despite COVID’s continued threat to immunocompromised and even healthy individuals. 

I realized the extent of Dickinson college’s inadequate treatment of COVID during my first week of classes. My roommate tested positive. We hadn’t even been here a week, but someone had brought COVID to campus. This likely would not have happened if a negative COVID test was required to return to campus. But alas, I had a sick roommate, and I had to figure out what to do. 

My first worry after finding out about her positive test was to get a test for myself. I called the Wellness Center, assuming I could just go in and get one quickly. But the first thing they asked me on the phone after I explained my situation was “Do you have any symptoms?” I mentioned I’d had a cough the night before but currently felt fine. They replied that they could only give me a COVID test if I came in to be treated for a cough. Essentially I would’ve had to lie about having a persistent cough in order to find out if I, as a close contact, had COVID. 

Feeling frustrated, I ended up walking to CVS to buy some tests for myself. Luckily, I tested negative. The next concern was where I should sleep. According to Dickinson’s policy, the sick roommate has to quarantine in their own room for five days. So it’s up to the non-sick roommate to leave if they don’t feel uncomfortable. That rule feels incredibly unfair, especially since if you’re immunocompromised or just don’t want to catch COVID. You have no other option than to temporarily move out. 

I spent the first night in a friend’s room, but that would not be feasible for five days. The next day  I went to Residence Life with a friend in the same situation as me. We asked if there were any empty rooms we could stay in. Thankfully, there was a room, so we stayed in a different building for a few days. I am incredibly grateful that the college provided us temporary housing, but it makes more sense to the sick roommate.

Meanwhile, my roommate had to rely on me or one of her friends to pick up her meals. The first couple of days, all the school provided for her to eat was chicken broth and apple sauce. While that’s an acceptable meal for someone with the stomach flu, it’s not enough otherwise. Eventually, the dining services realized the issue and allowed those with COVID to have a takeout container of caf food.

Five days later, I moved back into my dorm, and my roommate and I finally adjusted to our dorm and schedules. But I’m still unhappy with Dickinson’s COVID policy. My hope is that continued complaints from students and input from new student council members will force the college administration to realize that Dickinson is not doing enough!