Editorial: What happens in a worst-case scenario?

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Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden, New Jersey. - Photo via Miguel Martinez

Update: Rowan University has sent out an email announcing the extension of spring break 2020 to give teachers time to create new lesson plans online in the wake of coronavirus. Read more about it here.

Online classes? With this Wi-Fi?

Well, that seems to be the plan that Rowan has in case of a widespread coronavirus outbreak: stay inside and move classes to the internet. While this may not be the final outcome that Rowan chooses, it is still worth exploring as an option.

However, as anyone who has ever tried to access Citrix Receiver on a Monday afternoon knows too well, Rowan’s Wi-Fi would probably not be able to handle the influx of users.

This begs the question: what else can be planned in the event of widespread illness?

For example, would Rowan require employees of Gourmet Dining to show up on campus in the middle of a public health crisis? If Gourmet Dining and on-campus meals aren’t available, will students living in traditional dorms without kitchens be able to access food? Will students be reimbursed for their meal plans? What about RAs? Would rations be given every day?

Maybe students would be sent home, especially if they couldn’t eat. What about students who don’t have a permanant address to return to? Or those who do not have easy and pleasant home lives? Or those who live across the country in different states? Would they be forced to purchase a plane ticket? Should they even be travelling in an epidemic and potentially put in more danger? Would they be kicked out of their housing, left to look for temporary lodging in potentially predatory situations?

For better or for worse, universities have turned themselves into self-sustaining ecosystems. At Rowan, there’s not a grocery store within reasonable walking distance of campus. If you need emergency clothing, it would require going to the Barnes and Noble since there’s no nearby Target, Walmart or shopping mall.

Students require the university operating as intended for many basic needs to be met.

If Rowan does have plans for these circumstances, they should be made more accessible and public. Students shouldn’t be left wondering what their future might hold in the very real possibility of disease outbreak, whether coronavirus or any other epidemic. They should be given, at a minimum, some understanding of how they can continue to eat and sleep and have a roof over their heads.

Rowan has an entire degree program for disaster preparedness and emergency management. How will we show that we can manage an emergency on our own campus?

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