How 2 colleges suppress COVID with student support

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and Saint Louis University are keeping COVID transmissions low

Students at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology are competing in esports and playing in-person intramural activities such as disc golf that allow social distancing.

They have also been holding virtual club and organization meetings, and the student newspaper has even lauded the administration’s transparency in releasing weekly testing results.

Six weeks into its fall quarter, the Indiana STEM college has conducted more than 12,000 tests while requiring masks and social distancing and conducting aggressive contact tracing.

Its positivity rate for 2,100 students has held steady between 0.3% and 0.4%, compared to the roughly 5% national average.

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One of the key lessons learned from spring lockdowns is that classes had to be optimized for flexibility and hybrid learning, with regular student-instruction interaction, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Rick Stamper said.

“The Learning and Technology office worked this summer with a small team of faculty to develop and deliver a novel sequence of training and work sessions on developing high-quality courses and materials for use across a variety of delivery methods. The faculty did a wonderful job of preparing for the fall courses,” Stamper said.

Administrators expect to move to remote learning to start the winter semester and then shift to hybrid instruction. It plans for in-person learning in the spring.

COVID learning opportunities

Saint Louis University’s COVID-19 positivity rate so far this semester has been low: 0.6% through random, weekly testing of 10% of asymptomatic students.

A key to that low rate is that student leaders have been involved in COVID planning throughout the school year and that the 3,500 students living on the large, urban campus are following health practices, administrators say.

Students from a range of majors have been acting as public health ambassadors to provide safety education to their classmates. Others have volunteered to bring food, snacks and games to students who are in quarantine.

The university has used only a handful of the 150 beds it set aside for isolating infected students.

While the university has not imposed any lockdowns, it has developed an aggressive contract-tracing program that has found very few virus clusters.

The pandemic has also given STEM majors an opportunity to gain real-world experience, administrators say. Students in the school of nursing have been administering weekly COVID tests while students from the university’s College for Public Health and Social Justice are staffing contact tracing teams.

UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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