sign on door of building that with image of mask and "face mask required" next to a wheelchair sign

A sign indicates the face mask requirement in campus buildings. Credit: Sarah Szilagy | Campus Editor

To the editor: 

My name is Laurel Bayless, and I am a fourth-year here at Ohio State. Normally, I’d be looking forward to going back to campus now.

However, I am troubled when I think about all of the dangers involved in returning to campus, along with the large majority of students. Franklin County is under a Level 3 Public Health Emergency, which requires face masks in all public settings, and students will be returning from many locations — like Florida and Arizona — even more threatened by COVID-19 than Ohio. The return of the majority of students to campus and the resumption of many normal activities will inevitably lead to many large gatherings. Once students are back on campus and going to class, work and student organizations, they will want to reconnect with friends. I am from Athens, Ohio, and in the evenings one can always see crowds of college-aged individuals entering bars and on porches having parties. It is hard to imagine that at Ohio State, all 50,000 students will perfectly abide by the Together As Buckeyes Pledge. These will not only affect students who choose to participate in dangerous social activities, but also members of the university community who live, work or are in classes with these individuals. Quickly, this will ripple through the university community.

This situation causes me worry for many reasons. First, I worry for our professors and staff, many of whom are older than the average student and therefore at greater risk for COVID-19. I have had the privilege to be taught by and work with incredibly talented and dedicated faculty members whose lives I do not want to put at risk. I also worry for myself and other students; not only do some of us have preexisting health conditions, but additionally, we do not know all of the long-term health consequences of COVID-19. We know that some of them — like heart and lung complications — can be deadly or cause costly health problems which could potentially be with us for the rest of our lives.

The Columbus City Schools will be online because they rightly recognize the extreme danger involved in reopening. However, unlike the public schools, Ohio State is not playing an essential role in childcare which will need replacement by potentially even more dangerous methods of gathering. Many children who won’t be in school because the school year went online will have to go to daycare while their parents work. Some daycares might be more dangerous than a school that practices social distancing to the greatest extent possible. This is one of the most compelling reasons I’ve heard for keeping elementary schools open, despite the difficulties demonstrated by schools that have reopened. This reason for staying open doesn’t apply to Ohio State, though. Therefore its resumption of most classes in person is inexcusable.

Miami University and Ohio University, among others, announced plans over a week ago to go almost all online for the first month of classes and then to offer students the option of taking all online classes for the rest of the semester. I applaud these universities for keeping their students safe, and for giving their professors the time to prepare for online teaching by declaring this early. Because the vast majority of students will take all online classes in the first month, students in laboratory-intensive courses, which cannot easily be transferred online, will be able to more safely proceed in person. If these universities need to keep most students online after the first month, they will be better prepared to do so because they began their courses online.

Thus, I urge the administration to consider a plan like that of Ohio University or Miami University immediately. We cannot go forward with the current plan without gravely endangering the university community. The sooner we let students and staff prepare for online courses, the better the educational outcomes will be.

Laurel Bayless

Fourth-year in physical geography