We’re hearing a lot from college leaders and public-health experts about what the fall should, or can, look like on campus. But what are students thinking?
That’s what Sherry Pagoto,
a professor and clinical psychologist at the University of Connecticut, wanted to find out. So she and a graduate student, Laurie Groshon
, conducted focus groups.
Every student said the university’s required 14-day quarantine before the semester was unrealistic. Students will be eager to see each other and will find a way to do so, Pagoto said. Also, they were concerned about boredom.
One student suggested that instead of asking students to come back to quarantine for two weeks before classes start, the university should ask students to quarantine during the first two week of classes, and make those weeks all online. At least they’d have something to do.
Here’s how else students said their university can help make quarantine tolerable: Get them outside. They’re more enthusiastic about socially distanced outdoor activities like exercise classes or movies than about online games or activities.
Students want do’s and don’ts. They asked for specific guidance. They want to be educated about why all these steps are important. Pagoto said they noticed that some students had misinformed beliefs and knowledge gaps. One good idea: several students’ suggestion that the university offer a required Covid-19 training module at the beginning of the semester.
Shame and fear are obstacles. When asked about testing and contact tracing, students seemed scared about being shamed if people figured out they got infected doing something risky. They also feared getting in trouble. They worried they would be kicked off campus if they were infected. And they worried about sharing contacts from bars if they were under the legal drinking age.
“Infection really needs to be de-stigmatized on campus,” Pagoto said.
One of the best ways to motivate students? Emphasize spring: