The U.S. has been grappling with the coronavirus pandemic for a year. Schools have been closed off and on, remote learning has become the new normal as attempts to slow the spread of coronavirus on college campuses and surrounding communities. Recently, President Joe Biden has signed an executive order for the Department of Education to provide more guidance for college reopenings.
The executive order, which was signed on Jan. 21, 2021, directs the Department of Education to consult with the Secretary of Health and Human Services to provide “evidence based-guidance to institutions of higher education on safely reopening for in-person learning, which shall take into account considerations such as the institution’s setting, resources, and the population it serves.”
This step by the Biden administration differs from the Trump administration, whose main reopening plan was a push to have all schools open and ready to welcome students at the start of the school year. Now, still in the midst of a pandemic that has killed more than 470,000 people, there is an attempt being made to slow the spread.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) had previously issued guidelines for college reopenings, which focused on providing guidance that best suited each institution rather than an identical approach. Yet these guidelines were met with criticism from medical professionals such as Dr. Leana Wen. “On the one hand, it is true that there shouldn’t be a one size fits all solution because colleges are so different and are located in different areas…” Wen said in an interview with Inside Higher Ed. “The federal government has the responsibility to do two things — one is to have a minimum set of requirements for safe reopening and the other is to have a way to collect real-time data.”
Dr. Wen also believes that there needs to be more guidance, something which the Biden administration aims to provide. The executive order instructs the Department of Education to create a “Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse” which would provide educational centers a way to provide information on the reopening process.
As for Drexel University, in a statement provided to The Triangle, President John Fry shared that “the University follows guidelines released by the CDC and works closely with city and state officials to ensure that we are fully complying with their guidelines.” He also stated that the university does adjust its guidelines based on the latest science-driven data.
An email regarding plans for the spring term at Drexel University was sent on Thursday to students, which echos similar messages members of the federal government have shared. Dr. Anthony Fauci has recommended wearing two masks since the discovery of deadlier strains of coronavirus. Even with the rollout of vaccines, it is still being recommended to social distance, wash hands and wear masks.
Even with guidelines changing, plans still being finalized and the urges to slow the transmission, President Fry still has one priority for the Drexel University community going forward. “Our top priority is the health and safety of our entire community,” President Fry said.