BW Holds Covid-19 Forum

Baldwin Wallace University held a COVID-19 Forum on October 7 with BW Health Advisory Committee members Steve Stahl, Dale Grubb, and Timeka Rashid. 

The forum was conducted to encourage students to ask any questions they had regarding Baldwin Wallace University and its policies during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Questions at the forum were asked by Resident Assistants, everyday students, and Sarah Giddings who represented the BW College Republicans and their concerns. 

The majority of the questions were asked by the College Republicans, including whether masking requirements would be lifted.  

Due to the ever-present risk of breakthrough infections posed by the Delta variant, the simple answer given by the administration is no, masks will not be lifted anytime soon. 

Unless CDC guidelines go against mask-wearing, the policy will stay in place. According to the Advisory Committee, consistent mask policy on campus has reduced the number of people in quarantine and isolation this semester. Beyond this, flu cases were also at an all-time low this year due to masking requirements and social distancing.  

The administration made a note to stress that they would not be keeping masks on for a minute more than they must.  

“I wouldn’t choose to live in a mask, and I don’t think anybody would, but they do have distinct benefits, distinct safety precautions,” Grubb said. “Some to us and even more so to others.”  

Rashid said that BW would not implement a vaccine mandate at this time, noting the many processes and stakeholders involved in such a decision. 

“Decisions are not made in the BW bubble,” Rashid said. “[We are] talking to our respective constituents and counterparts at other institutions, so while there are six other institutions in the OAC who have made that decision, we’re looking at our numbers.” 

The numbers indicate the effectiveness of the current BW policy, according to Rashid. Case counts at BW are not pressing the health advisory committee to do anything differently. Even close contact cases have lessened from 4-6 persons infected last year to 0-2 this year. 

The final question from the College Republicans tackled the issue of regulations not being properly enforced, questioning if students should have all their freedoms back due to the lack of proper enforcement tackling rule breakers. 

The committee made it aware that there are many behind-the-scenes processes occurring to tackle those not following BW mask policies due to the university not wanting to deputize masking police and create that specific atmosphere on campus. 

Compared to last year where Baldwin Wallace University held itself accountable for implementing and enforcing policies, this year there has been a shift towards individual accountability as well. If a student sees someone breaking the rules, whether it be another student or staff/faculty, they are encouraged to say something through the non-compliance form on the BW Be Safe website. 

Even with the decrease in regulations this year with just masking requirements and required tests for unvaccinated individuals, the number of non-compliance notifications notices and follows have decreased from estimates as high as 80+ in range to as low as 20+ in range because of the process and communication that has been put in place. 

The culture on campus is being shifted quietly to avoid embarrassing community members. This shifting is a result of non-compliant members of the BW community facing fines that increase for repeat offenders. 

Even as questions from Resident Assistants and student leaders regarding implementation of policies and consequences for non-compliance were answered by the health advisory committee, these administration members were made aware of another problem in the community: the lack of clear communication between administrators, student leaders, faculty and students, as pointed out by Dale Grubb. 

“We need to work collectively and repeatedly at clarifying communication and when the pandemic keeps changing on us,” Grubb said. “Rightfully, our protocols adapt to those changes. We need to make sure that people are clear about that.”