The Gatepost Editorial: An untenable Thanksgiving choice

Earlier this week, the Dean of Students Office sent out an email encouraging resident students to remain on campus over Thanksgiving break.

The email was sent to the campus community with only nine days remaining before the official start of break.

It stated, “Individuals choosing to travel or not observe social distancing practices, even with family members, should strongly consider remaining off campus for the full 14-day quarantine period, which would mean nearly the remainder of the fall term.” 

This is an inconsiderate request as resident students are now faced with a decision to either spend Thanksgiving alone on campus or to celebrate with their families and risk not being able to return to the dorm rooms they paid for.

As an incentive to remain on campus, the University is offering resident students free meals during the break period. 

However, the University’s website states, “If you register to remain on campus, the expectation is that you avoid holiday gatherings and travel out of the area as this undermines the public health purpose of this housing option.” 

Thanksgiving is a time to be with loved ones and express gratitude for the blessings we have. It is not – as the University suggests – a time for college students to sit alone in their dorm rooms, eating to-go orders from the dining commons. 

While Thanksgiving, and the holiday season in general, will look very different this year due to the pandemic, students deserve to be home with their families during this time of the year – Thanksgiving, and the holidays following – without the ultimatum issued by the University or the heightened risk of COVID-19 that comes from being on campus amid a third-wave in Massachusetts.

We are in no way asking the University not to encourage social distancing over the break, but we do not believe asking residents to stay on campus, away from their families, for Thanksgiving is the proper response.

Although we appreciate the offer of free meals for students who choose to remain at FSU, to ask every resident student to stay on campus during Thanksgiving break is not the proper course of action.

Not only will it keep students from seeing their immediate families, but it is an ineffective move on the University’s part. 

During this week’s SGA meeting, President Olivia Beverlie shared that the University only expects one out of every seven residents to remain on campus over break.

That is approximately 100 residents.

Many students have travel plans set, plane tickets paid for, and desperately want to see their parents and siblings. They deserved more time to make this decision if the University expected its Thanksgiving plan to be effective.

Our question is: Why were administrators so quick to take away spring break five months in advance, but made the decision to strongly encourage residents to stay on campus over Thanksgiving break only nine days before they are supposed to go home?

Other Massachusetts universities, such as Fitchburg and Bridgewater states, have planned to go fully remote post-Thanksgiving break. We would like Framingham State to consider taking the same course of action.

FSU has left its students completely in the dark by waiting until nine days before Thanksgiving to unveil a plan concerning the break – even though students have been asking what the plan was since the start of the semester.

Encouraging students to remain at school rather than go home to be with loved ones is frankly hypocritical as those making the request travel to and from their own homes each day. 

They do not experience the day-to-day life of a resident student on this campus. 

Would you, an administrator, want to stay on an empty campus alone while your loved ones are gathered around the holiday table to give thanks? 

Would you want to be told not to come back to campus for nearly the remainder of the semester because you wanted to go home for the holiday weekend? 

We think not. 

In addition to asking residents to stay on campus throughout the holiday, the administration has ordered any resident student who wishes to remain on campus for the remainder of the semester to get tested Tuesday, Dec. 1.

But testing can only do so much – especially when commuters are rarely tested. 

Commuters do not get tested as regularly as residents do even though they are more exposed to the outside world.

Why are residents being asked not to go home for five days when commuters, faculty, and administrators get to go home every day and don’t get tested as regularly as resident students?

If the University is concerned enough about the risk of COVID-19 on campus post-break to ask resident students to stay on campus, the residence halls should be closed for the few weeks remaining until winter break.

Several times over the course of this semester, we at The Gatepost have reported on students’ concerns about the University’s handling of the pandemic. 

Many of these students believe administrators have not addressed their concerns adequately.

Trustees, administrators, and residence life staff have been made aware of a number of instances in which students have disregarded social distancing guidelines outlined not only by the University, but the state as well. 

It’s time for FSU administrators to listen to their students’ concerns and to act on them.

Students agreed to be on campus because they were told, according to an email sent to the community in August, “Failure to abide by the Student Code of Conduct [concerning COVID-19] may result in serious consequences that could cause a student to be removed from the residence halls and/or be expelled.”

But now, many students believe those responsible for keeping them safe are not following up on their promise to hold those who are not following the rules accountable.

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks. But we can not be thankful for the disappointing response from those who have a responsibility to keep us safe. 

We all want a safe holiday season. 

Students shouldn’t have to sacrifice time with loved ones when the answer to a safe and healthy holiday season is right in front of us.

Send us home.