On Sept. 3, Temple University moved 95 percent of in-person classes online for the remainder of the fall semester after reporting 212 active cases of COVID-19 among students and previously suspending in-person classes for two weeks pending a final decision on the semester’s fate.
The decision follows weeks of demonstrations and protests by students, faculty and community members opposing the university’s reopening.
On Sept. 1, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley referred to the rising cases as an “outbreak among Temple University students,” and on Sept. 3, he encouraged students living off campus to move back where they were living over the summer to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
On Aug. 31, the Editorial Board called on the university to swiftly cancel in-person classes for the remainder of the semester, citing an increase of nearly 100 cases of COVID-19 among students in one week, as well as the incalculable impact an outbreak could have on the nearby North Central neighborhood.
In that editorial, we said this decision could not be made hastily or without clear forethought, but argued the university had ample time to reconsider their decision to hold in-person classes since the first announcement in June.
Today, the Editorial Board appreciates the university’s quick decision to suspend nearly all in-person classes. We recognize choosing to suspend in-person instruction was not an easy decision, and understand this move may not be popular among all students and faculty. We, as students, value in-person instruction and look forward to the day these classes can return safely.
Online instruction is the safest way to learn at the moment. We thank the university for recognizing this. Nevertheless, our fight to mitigate this outbreak is not over.
As we move into the rest of the semester, the university needs to continuously test students for COVID-19. This means continuing to make the protocol and locations for testing sites widely available to students, and expanding the number of testing sites, if resources permit. As long as there are students living in campus housing, Temple needs to ensure they have access to regular testing.
On Sept. 1, Farley told Temple students they should assume anyone around them is infected with COVID-19. In line with this guidance, the Editorial Board calls on the university to expand testing for students as much as possible to mitigate any further spread of COVID-19.
The Editorial Board also encourages the university to consider opening student and faculty testing sites to community residents. Given the potential effects of Temple’s outbreak on the spread of COVID-19 throughout North Central, we feel the university has a duty to provide testing services to community members.
Despite the decision to suspend in-person classes requiring city intervention and more than 200 positive cases of COVID-19 among students, we are nevertheless relieved the decision was ultimately made. President Richard Englert wrote that the decision was “data-driven,” and we encourage the university to listen to the data surrounding the safe way to conduct instruction as we navigate the remainder of this semester.
At this critical moment in Temple’s history, we have the opportunity to be the testament of the university’s motto, “Perseverance Conquers.” However, we can only do so if we listen to data and health professionals every step of the way.
Temple, you made the right decision to cancel in-person classes. Now, it’s your time to keep our community safe.