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Opinion: Thanksgiving break policy lacks realistic enforcement strategies

COVID-19 updates do not consider student mental health, enforcement techniques

President Cornwell’s letter to the student body, regarding changes to spring break, winter break, and Thanksgiving break policies, restrict student travel and create pushback. This policy is poorly considered and unenforceable and will have a detrimental impact on student wellbeing.

Cornwell stated that the college would require students to stay on campus for the break, and if they leave, they would be required to attend classes virtually and off-campus for the rest of the semester. 

This method seems to rely on the honor system, trusting students to sign out with their RAs, but Cornwell needs to realize the catastrophic effects this new policy will have on the Rollins community. He needs to recognize that there is no way to enforce that no one will go home for Thanksgiving break.

No strategy for enforcement of this policy has been laid out thus far. Students have to check out with their RA before they leave if they’re going to leave for Thanksgiving, but this implies that Cornwell believes that all students will be truthful. 

I live ten minutes away from campus and go home on a weekly basis, yet students who have to take a four-hour plane flight are expected to disregard their one chance to see their family and spend it on campus. 

I’m not saying every student on campus is going to get up and leave without telling anyone, but there’s not an easy way to enforce this new policy. Since the enforcement relies on the RAs, and they’ve been given no guidance on how to enforce the policy, it’s up to them on how strict they want to be regarding the break. 

Students who live off-campus are given a slight advantage because they don’t have RAs to check up on them. This means students who don’t live on campus or have family within fifteen minutes away from the school have the privilege of seeing their families, which those who don’t have family nearby don’t have. This leads to tension on campus and within the community.

The email from Cornwell says that it’s okay if students want to fly their family down for the break; they just can’t fly home themselves. Not every student can afford to have their family come visit them in Winter Park for just two days. It’s expensive enough to buy one plane ticket, but buying multiple might set a family behind too much, especially during a pandemic. 

This rule is classist and could lead to more COVID-19 cases in Florida, which is just what Cornwell says he’s trying to stop. 

Lastly, it’s imperative that students have a chance to see their families before winter break for the sake of their mental health. Many students have been counting down the days until they can go home, making it an important checkpoint in college life. 

College students already struggle with mental health issues when they make the transition to this new environment, and on top of that, students are also dealing with the pressure of a global pandemic. For many, the only people who can relieve this anxiety are family members who have been there for students their whole lives. 

There are many better ways the college could handle thanksgiving break, all of which include letting students go home for the holiday. There could be mandatory COVID-19 tests for every student before they return, like Florida State University required at the beginning of the school year. Or, at the bare minimum, the college could instill mandatory temperature checks when students return. 

All I ask is for Cornwell to reconsider the effects that this policy will have on students’ mental health and COVID-19 cases in Florida, and realize there isn’t a way to enforce this policy without transforming the campus into a police state.

The opinions on this page do not necessarily reflect those of The Sandspur or Rollins College.

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