Near the beginning of the academic year, both the students and the administration put great effort into requiring people on campus to stay on campus, while discouraging those outside of the Brandeis community from coming onto campus. The administration has been quite consistent about this, even putting forth guidelines encouraging individuals to stay within Massachusetts and telling students that they must comply with the Massachusetts Travel Advisory should they decide to travel out of state. In fact, the administration has been so consistent about this that the in-person graduation ceremony was cancelled because the risk of bringing so many new members into one central event was too great, potentially being a superspreader event.
Unfortunately, the administration went back on these strict policies that they put in place when they began to allow admitted students from the class of 2025 on to campus for touring, despite tours being available online. According to its website, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions allows 25 students per information session, and visitors may be on campus for up to two hours. To us, this indicates a clear priority for the Brandeis administration: They allow incoming students to tour our campus, potentially risking the health of students on campus, most of whom have made a consistent effort to prioritize both their own health and the general health of the Brandeis community.
Throughout the school year, the university has broadcasted messages about maintaining the “Brandeis bubble” to keep our exposure to individuals outside the Brandeis community small to prevent any potential outbreaks. However, having in-person tours resume on campus seems counterintuitive to the messages that we have heard all year. If we are letting people come onto campus from outside the “bubble,” we are increasing the risk of exposure for students living on campus. While it is good that the university is requiring a negative test result within 72 hours of coming to campus, if a student is flying from California and staying in a hotel overnight, there are many opportunities for them to potentially get exposed to COVID-19 before coming to campus. Also, if students are visiting multiple schools in the area within a short period of time, they are entering the “bubbles” of multiple different schools, putting even more people at risk.
In-person tours, despite only being for admitted students for the class of 2025, also makes it appear as though our campus is open again to all prospective students. It can be very difficult to navigate who is an admitted student and who is a rising senior in high school looking to see if they should apply to Brandeis. It then becomes the job of students and other community members to report people being on campus who shouldn’t be, a job for people who didn’t want in-person tours to begin with.
We understand that touring campus is good for recruitment, but this seems like a big risk to be taking. Driving tours, a COVID-19 safe way to check out the campus, are still an option. We love this innovative way to learn about Brandeis while still remaining socially distant. For the most part, the Brandeis community has done a solid job of reducing the spread of COVID-19. We have only had one major outbreak during the entirety of the academic year. This seems like an unnecessary risk to popping our Brandeis bubble, one that the entire community has been working towards creating.