Over the past few days, some people have expressed concern or outrage in regard to Liberty University's decision to remain "open" during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. While the concerns raised are understandable given the large amount of attention COVID-19 has received, there are a few points that may be worth considering before sharing criticisms.
First, while Liberty's campus is usually bustling with students and activities, the campus currently is not as it was. All classes are now online (with the exception of labs that need to be completed in-person, and these classes are limited to 10 people or less), facilities are either closed or have a capacity limit of 10 people or less, and all dining options are now carryout.
Further, students are not required or even recommended to return, returning to campus is left to the discretion of the student. According to students still on campus, the campus is quite empty at the moment and most students have returned home. One student who has returned to campus said that her dorm on East Campus, which usually holds six other girls, is "completely empty. [She] is the only one left in her whole quad."
While the idea of escaping to home and self-quarantining with your family — where everyone sits down to a family dinner and plays board games during this time where everything is shut down — is all fine and dandy, many people in today's society do not have this type of family life. I ask you to consider the following three categories of individuals in particular who do not have that luxury.
1. Liberty has a large international student population.
What about the students from Italy or China whose countries are in a complete lockdown? They are far safer on a monitored campus than trying to travel home. International students from less-affected countries are impacted as well: travel is expensive, and air travel routes at this time are limited. How can we expect students who have their entire lives with them on campus to promptly pack up and try to find a way home?
2. Not every student has as great a family life as you may.
There are many students who come from abusive homes. Is it fair to ask them to try to return to their difficult home situation? Surely this could bring about even more harm.
3. What about students who don't have a home or a family to return to?
Their Liberty dorm is their only home. Room and board have been paid for, and it is not feasible to insist that students find a new place to live. As you know, college students are notorious for having small bank accounts and huge debt. To prohibit students from returning to their dorm would be equivalent to closing an apartment complex. Consider one that has paid this month's rent for an apartment in New York City — the city that has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in America — should the government kick all the residents out of the complex simply because they are at risk of being too close together?
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Before criticizing the university for remaining open to students, please consider the students who may not have the luxury of escaping to a different destination to complete their online studies. Further, understand that the university has taken massive steps to ensure that the students remain safe and healthy. From implementing capacity limits to changing dining procedures to switching classes to online, Liberty does care about its students despite the media's portrayal of the university being nothing but irresponsible.