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UMich slammed for policy to kick COVID-positive students off campus

Stanford professor says ‘cruel’ policy could cause virus to spread to community

The University of Michigan is requiring students to leave campus for at least five days if they test positive for COVID-19, a policy that one leading medical professor described as “cruel” and led others to question its wisdom and practicality.

The policy, published on the university website, also tells students that they must wear a mask for an additional five days after returning to campus.

Responding this week, Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine and health policy at Stanford University, said the mandate could cause the virus to spread even more.

“This cruel policy is designed to spread covid from the university into the wild. It won’t stop covid from spreading @umich,” Bhattacharya wrote Sunday on X.

The university requires students to report a positive COVID-19 test to the UM Department of Environment, Health & Safety, and then isolate off campus for at least five days. It recommends students stay with a relative or friend nearby or buy a hotel room.

The policy stresses that the isolation requirements “need to be met,” and students in campus housing “need to leave their residence halls during isolation, even if they are in a single room.”

During their isolation, the university tells students to expect “regular phone and email contact” with staff as well as a case investigator from the UM health department.

These individuals will “provide ongoing support for student life concerns (e.g. academic, financial, facilities and housing, mental health and well-being), clinical information and check-in and public health information as necessary,” the university website states.

But Robby Soave, a senior editor at Reason, said a better solution would be for the university to offer on-campus accommodations for sick students.

“Alas, the website notes that ‘isolation spaces on campus are extremely limited,’” Soave wrote Tuesday. “Making them less limited seems like a better use of time than hunting down COVID-positive students and exiling them from campus.”

The current policy is “so extreme and disruptive” that sick students may avoid testing instead, he continued.

“Imagine a student who presumes he has a bacterial infection and desperately needs antibiotics; does he dare risk going to the university hospital and testing positive for COVID-19, especially if that means ejection from his dormitory?” Soave wrote.

The University of Michigan policy also caught the attention of popular novelist Joyce Carol Oates who questioned its wisdom in a post Monday on X.

“Is this enforceable?” Oates wrote. It “shows a callous disregard for students who may be ill — told to move out of their rooms & ‘isolate’ elsewhere, including hotel rooms. (how could undergraduates afford hotel rooms? & what about the likelihood of infecting the community?)”

Many universities have dropped COVID-19 vaccine and masking mandates since the pandemic hit more than three years ago. However, dozens of schools still require students to be vaccinated, according to No College Mandates, which tracks COVID-19 requirements at higher education institutions.

MORE: Nearly 100 colleges still mandate COVID vaccine, eliciting criticism

IMAGE: Ken Wolter / Shutterstock

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About the Author
Micaiah Bilger is an assistant editor at The College Fix.