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EDITORIAL: When it comes to coronavirus planning, transparency is key

Rutgers owes its students clear communication

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 152nd editorial board.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 152nd editorial board.

With cases and deaths beginning to flatten or decline in some areas of the country — particularly, the hard-hit New York/New Jersey area — governors and other government officials have begun discussing procedures on how to reopen the economy and country.

Whatever they decide on, it should certainly be approved by both policy and health experts capable of understanding what is best both for the health of the wider community and the livelihoods of those who live in those communities, and the response must be coordinated between states. Luckily, those stipulations all seem to be under consideration as of now, according to the article.

“Several of the governors who spoke on Monday made it clear that they did not intend to let businesses in their states reopen until experts and data suggested it would be safe to do so. They noted that their fates were bound by geography. ‘The reality is this virus doesn’t care about state borders, and our response shouldn’t either,’ Gov. Gina Raimondo (D-R.I.) of Rhode Island said,” according to the article.

But what about Rutgers?

In a sense, Rutgers is its own little state, with tons of students attending each semester, who congregate in huge amounts at several campus hotspots, spend time in crowded lecture halls and classrooms and pile into dining halls for their meals. Clearly, the risk of spread — for any contagious disease, not just the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) — is high, and as a result, Rutgers needs to be as careful as a state government when it comes to pinpointing and optimizing its future plans.

We are not experts in infectious diseases here at The Daily Targum, and we are not in the business of pretending to know precisely what measures are necessary for optimizing student health and learning experiences going forward. What we do know, though, is that whatever the University decides to do must prioritize human wellbeing without sacrificing the learning experience that prompted us to enroll here.

That response may come down to enforcing some sort of social distancing on buses, classrooms and the regulation of large fraternity parties (if any of those prove possible). Unfortunately for many students, though, that response may end up being a digital Fall 2020 semester.

Just like we are not in the business of infectious diseases, we are also not here to make predictions. That established, it does not take more than a scan of recent headlines to realize that a remote-learning scenario is very much in play for this coming fall. It seems a distant time, but the semester begins in only a little more than four months.

No matter what Rutgers decides, like the governments above it, it must be proactive with its response. While it is certainly far too early to take any decisive measures regarding the fall semester, that decision cannot be pushed back to early August or even late July. 

Students and professors alike will need time to prepare for both an in-person or a digital semester. Those preparations include making and moving into living arrangements, traveling from home to head to class or purchasing necessary technology to complete online course work.

Some classes currently are shifting and altering their coursework with plans to be back in-person for the fall, which proves another reason for a proactive, clearly communicated response. Professors cannot assume anything about this fall yet and need to be prepared for a multitude of scenarios regarding how learning will be handled.

The responsibility also lies in our government officials. They need to step up and show themselves to be the pinnacle of sharp, calculated decision making. Their actions and plans to optimize their fight against the virus are an important benchmark for Rutgers and other schools to look at and emulate. Without their leadership, schools will have nothing to base their decisions upon. 

The most critical thing here is communication and transparency. The University needs to be transparent about where it is in the decision making process, how those decisions will impact our classes and grades and what students must do to prepare for the fall semester. It may seem early to talk about this, but if we have learned anything from this crisis, it is that you can never plan too far ahead.


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 152nd editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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