Welcome back, Temple University.
The Editorial Board extends our best wishes to all returning students, faculty and staff this fall semester. We recognize the sacrifice many are making to return to campus amid the uncertainty and danger of COVID-19 and we thank those at the university who worked tirelessly this summer to plan for this return.
Temple University is in a unique position this fall. The University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University and La Salle University are among local colleges that recently announced they will close their residence halls and transition to all online classes this fall. As one of the only Philadelphia-area universities to maintain its plan for a hybrid of in-person and online learning so far, Temple could very well provide a test case for whether local campuses can safely operate in-person while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the United States.
Given Temple’s decision to continue in-person learning, The Editorial Board encourages students to do their best to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in their day-to-day lives. COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus that can spread rapidly from person-to-person, including those without any symptoms.
At the same time, we understand that Temple is responsible for putting students, faculty, staff and members of the North Philadelphia community at increased risk by reopening campus instead of holding classes online. While the university has devoted a significant amount of time and resources toward planning how students can return in the safest way possible, it is undeniable that hosting in-person classes and allowing on-campus housing to remain open poses an increased risk to students than having classes exclusively online.
Furthermore, should a significant outbreak occur, The Editorial Board recognizes that it will disproportionately affect Black and brown residents in the neighborhood surrounding Main Campus as it has throughout Philadelphia so far, according to data from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.
As of Monday night, the first day of classes for Temple’s fall semester, the university reported ten active student COVID-19 cases. While we recognize the role student behavior can play in the spreading COVID-19 on campus, we cannot ignore the fact that Temple is responsible for facilitating a context in which students who have been socially isolated for months have a setting to socialize and host large gatherings.
Put simply, if Main Campus becomes a site for a COVID-19 outbreak in North Philadelphia, we will not accept blame be placed upon students and their behavior. Temple administrations’ decision to reopen will be the fault.
The Editorial Board asks the Temple community to not only think of social distancing measures as part of a shared responsibility to protect each other, but also as a way our society can move closer toward resembling life before the pandemic. While it is unclear when we will be able to end social distancing guidelines for good, we can inch closer to a semblance of normal life sooner if we all choose to follow them.
Finally, we ask Temple to continue monitoring the situation in Philadelphia and to strongly consider moving classes online if it becomes apparent that in-person learning is too dangerous. We also call on Temple, if it chooses that path, to do so with careful planning in advance regarding how students who struggle with housing and food insecurity will be accommodated, especially if campus facilities close.
Protect each other, Temple. However this semester pans out, we are all in it together.