An open letter from Psych 450: Prevention of Public Health Challenges

By the Students of Psych 450
Contributing Writers

Dear Sewanee Administration,

We are happy to be back on this amazing campus that we call home. We couldn’t be more appreciative of everything you have done to ensure that we remain on campus this semester and ensure the health and safety of the students, faculty, and staff during the pandemic. With that being said, we recognize your efforts but there are a few suggestions we would like to share with you. As members of PSYC 450, Prevention of Public Health Challenges, we have combined our knowledge with our experience thus far on campus to come up with various ideas we hope you will consider implementing to further promote the safety and well being of students and faculty. 

First we would like to address the positives that we have experienced as students:

  • We appreciate the increase in outdoor activities through the SOP and keeping physical activity prevalent on campus. 
  • We are also thankful for the abundance of food options (Stirlings, Pub, McClurg, Cravens) and the many pop ups the school has had.
  • We all agreed that the testing of students has been important and well done. 
  • You have done a great job with the library and social distancing.

Suggestions for improvements and changes:

  • Faculty and staff should be tested once a week as well, especially since many leave the bubble to go home to their families. 
  • Create an anonymous platform that doesn’t involve law enforcement. Some concerns are better routed to the administration (or perhaps public health office, Student Life or Wellness Center). Clearer instructions on use would also be helpful.
  • Address mental health considerations.
    • Re-implement the reading days that we were told would happen at the beginning of the year. We need a break to rest and being mentally and physically exhausted makes you more prone to illnesses, such as Covid.  
    • Holding “Let’s Talk” events outside where students can come together with professors and staff and talk about how they think the semester is proceeding. They can talk about their mental health and voice concerns.
  • Discourage visitors from coming on campus.
    • Don’t allow prospective athletes/students to tour campus, even if they are just walking around outside. 
    • Discourage tourists from visiting campus.
  • Offer more activity options.
    • Offer open fields or more tents for people to register social events. Offer more spaces for people to congregate outside, while following the restrictions (gatherings would be under 50 people).
    • Offer outdoor dining outside of Cravens. Set up picnic tables or plastic tables so that people could eat their meals together. 
  • Create incentives for the students.
    • For example, if we go x amount of weeks with no positives then we can do ________.
    • Use gamification and incentives to follow covid guidelines. For example, if a dorm/sports team/fraternity or sorority has the least number of cases or is seen wearing their mask more than others, they might get $10 more pub bucks on their account or something along those lines. 
  • Some efforts need to be more consistent or logical.
    • We are confused as to why we have to check in and swipe your card when we enter the library, but don’t have to do anything when we leave. Clarification on this front would be greatly appreciated. 
    • Remove the idea of the “bubble.” Students are the only people on campus being held to this standard, but we’re not breaking the bubble. Others are bursting the bubble for us, whether it be community members, faculty, staff and outsiders.
    • Making sure that we hold everyone to the same standard.
      • Keep regulations the same for everybody who leaves campus for unexpected emergencies.  (For example, we know of people who have had to leave campus for family emergencies who have been given different guidance about how long they have to stay off campus.)
      • Be consistent. If students constantly get away with warning after warning, then no change is going to happen.
  • Consider more stringent security regarding people leaving campus.

Thank you again for everything you all are doing and we can’t be more thankful to be on campus this fall!

The Students of Psychology 450 (Prevention of Public Health Challenges)