Two years into COVID-19: students and faculty reflect

A poster announcing a flu shot and Pfizer COVID-19 booster shot clinic on campus.

Jonathan Campbell

A poster announcing a flu shot and Pfizer COVID-19 booster shot clinic on campus.

As students approach the end of the fall semester, COVID-19 remains a constant companion. While Guilford College’s Health and Safety Task Force has done an excellent job in monitoring the virus’s transmission and spread, some students have doubts that other students have been keeping themselves safe.

“I think, overall, (Guilford is) doing a good job,” said Guilford junior Ainsley Kalb. “I think the vaccine mandate was a really important step, and I think that the fact that we responded to the potential cluster by going on lockdown really quickly was great. That flexibility of response, to me, was really encouraging.”

However, she did have some concerns. 

“There are other areas where I’m not quite as happy with the COVID response…My experience is colored by the fact that I live on the first floor of Bryan, which means I can see the quarantine suites,” Kalb said. “And earlier this year, right before and after the cluster, there (were) a bunch of instances of people in quarantine just leaving or propping their door open.  People were coming over into quarantine/isolation suites. It was dealt with by P-Safe when it was reported, but I know a lot of people personally who saw it but didn’t report it… And it also kept happening with different people.”

“I think the Task Force has done a fine job in terms of communicating,” Kalb continued. “I think it could be reinforced through the Buzz or “What’s the G”… I don’t think the communication is insufficient. I just think that people don’t read emails…And that’s a problem I don’t know how to solve.”

Saber Chadili, another junior, had a more positive outlook on the COVID response. 

“I do really like how they did their testing—it went very smooth,” Chadili said. “As far as…masks, I feel like everyone’s on board with masks.”

However, she did have some concerns of her own.

“There hasn’t really been much social distancing, as of right now,” Chadili said. “I know for…Halloween, a lot of people…including myself were out and about, but even I took a test recently and I got a test back. So maybe…the campus has been doing something right.”

“I’m kind of happy with (the COVID response) in general,” Chadili added. “They’re not too harsh… it’s a good in-between of caring and not being too hover-y… while being mindful that it’s still a pandemic, but also still being mindful that…it’s getting better… The one thing I really do like that they’ve been doing is…the emails that we get every few weeks. That really does help see…the grand scheme of things and the bigger idea of what’s going on on campus.”

Chadili shared her thoughts on the importance of having a remote learning option available in all Guilford classes during the pandemic. 

“Classes that don’t have the option to do Zoom (are) not a good idea,” Chadili said.  “Professors are very understandable if you email them… they won’t mark you as absent, but they also won’t provide a Zoom link to be able to participate in the class… One of my classes does that… they do have that option, but it’s not vocalized.” 

Dean of Students Steve Mencarini, who has spearheaded the Health and Safety Task Force,  provided a unique perspective on the ongoing pandemic. 

“I think we’ve been ahead (of COVID-19) is because of the successes that we’ve seen in our monitoring (and) testing—the testing that we do regularly with all of campus, and the regular testing that we’re doing weekly,” Mencarini said.”I’ll share with you just feedback from the folks who do the testing. They comment and see, because they work at other campuses and other places, they see the difference of the buy-in from the… students, faculty, staff here, (from) the entire community, that we’re taking this seriously, and that we are doing what we can with the tools that we have to…keep people safe.”

He elaborated on the buy-in as “people generally making good decisions.”

“I want to say that it’s not that everyone is perfect at all points in time, that’s unreasonable to expect,” Mencarini said. “But everyone has bought in to what we’re trying to do…I think that is partially because of the unique values and aspects of Guilford College that state explicitly that community is a value of ours, that at various points we have to individually…make different decisions than we would normally, for the sake of our community. That is fostered in each individual interaction between people. That says…I care about you through my actions.”

Mencarini ended by saying that as the pandemic slowly fades, he imagines that Guilford will at some point “…transition to Phase Five, which is a more ‘normal experience.’” 

However, he “doesn’t see us transitioning away from the masks, yet… on a smaller community like ours, there’s probably some hesitations associated with that.”

For students interested in receiving their second COVID-19 vaccine or their COVID-19 booster shot, the College will hold a vaccination clinic on Nov. 17 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.