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College bans students from leaving the state, bans family from campus under COVID-19 reopening

Students will be forced to sign new ‘social compact’

Some colleges have been criticized for vague reopening plans to account for the novel coronavirus.

Colby College isn’t one of them. Its reopening plan for the fall, which President David Greene said will cost up to $10 million, might be best labeled with a skull-and-bones warning.

The private liberal arts school in Maine is requiring explicit permission for various activities, including students wishing to leave the state and family members visiting the campus. Students will also be forced to take a loyalty oath to COVID-19 prevention.

Neither the advisory nor Greene’s Tuesday message mentions any exemptions for those who test positive for antibodies, meaning they have recovered from COVID-19 and are thus at low (if any) risk of subsequent infection.

“Everyone will be tested [for COVID-19] prior to their arrival on campus, and everyone will be tested twice per week during the academic year,” using a self-administered “lower-nasal swab,” the advisory says. Students who test positive, and those who were “exposed” to them, will be quarantined off-campus indefinitely – “until they are medically cleared to return to campus.”

MORELA County schools require students to wear masks ‘at all times’

Colby contradicts itself on whether face coverings are required, saying everyone “must” carry them everywhere on campus and then, in the next sentence, referring to it as a “recommendation.” They must be worn in buildings at all times, except for “one’s private office,” and outside “when physical distancing is not possible or is likely to be difficult.”

The college will give everyone two washable coverings. It provides a health exception for the masks:

Students for whom wearing a mask or facial covering is detrimental to their health due to a personal medical issue should contact Health Services to discuss accommodations. Faculty and staff should contact Human Resources.

Students can count on a lonely fall term, with bans on “student guests from other institutions, family members, community members, and outside speakers.” Any exceptions must be granted by “the appropriate vice president,” and those allowed to visit may be forced to hand over “a recent COVID-19 test.” The word “recent” is not defined.

Employees have more freedom to travel than do students. The former can travel between Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont without a two-week quarantine, while students can only leave the state “for extenuating circumstances,” with “advance approval.”

MOREWear a mask inside buildings or you’ll be punished, UT-Austin warns

The college warns that it may throw out the rulebook and crack down even more “if infection rates” – not hospitalizations, deaths or other meaningful benchmarks – “increase in these [three] states.” (Infection rates are a predictable result of vastly increased testing, including for those with no symptoms.)

President Greene’s message to the community says the college expects to “administer roughly 85,000 tests in the first semester alone,” which would equal Maine’s total tests since the pandemic started. It built its own hotel to house students “for this year only,” with transportation provided. The experience will resemble inmates being shuffled between prisons.

While the school links to Centers for Disease Control guidance on symptoms, Greene’s message goes even further, saying students with “indicators of risk” will be preemptively quarantined before they get test results. Faculty and staff, again, get preferential treatment: They will only be “asked” to stay at home while they await test results. “Indicators of risk” is not defined.

Ominously, the administration is roping in the student government to enforce its mandates through a “social compact” that students must sign. Greene provides no details about penalties for failing to honor this mandatory compact.

Perhaps the best news for students is that most of their classes will still be in person. For those who can’t be on campus, only a “core selection will be fully online,” Greene writes.

Brooklyn College Prof. KC Johnson, who lives in Maine, characterized the new rules as students paying “71k a year to never leave Waterville,” where the campus is located.

Read Greene’s message and the full advisory.

MORE: University releases contradictory sets of mask rules

MOREContrarian Liberty U. ends semester with zero COVID cases

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.