Western Carolina University welcomed over 700 guests on Saturday, Oct. 24, for an open house despite COVID cases climbing to record highs this semester.
During the week of open house, 69 positive cases were reported. That is the highest weekly positive case count the university has seen all semester. Additionally, 40 students continued to quarantine on campus with another 258 individuals off campus that same week.
On Oct. 16, Chancellor Brown addressed the university through email about the impact of the COVID-19 by highlighting the loss of UNC Asheville Officer James Hamilton, St. Augustine University President Irving Pressley McPhail, and Appalachian State University student Chad Dorrill. She reminded everyone to protect the community by following the Catamounts Care guidelines.
The university has continued to operate at phase two with event gatherings limited to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors. Various departments and student organizations have been forced to cancel events and limit what little in-person events they have. With the chancellor’s approval, however, the open house appeared immune to these same expectations.
The Undergraduate Admissions required open house guests to reserve a specific time, and each party was asked to stay for no longer than four hours and avoid entering any buildings.
However, the university had plenty of time to move the open house to a virtual platform. This past summer, the Orientation Office managed to move all their summer orientations to virtual with much less planning time.
A second open house is scheduled for Nov. 14.
Bringing thousands of students back to campus during a global pandemic was a large enough risk. Still, the university continues to push the limits and health of its students and staff by welcoming another hundred strangers to campus.
How can the university continue to ask students to give up their paid college experience for the community’s health and safety while hosting events that do the opposite?