Cleveland State University
Cleveland State University President Harlan Sands confirmed Friday that after one week of in-person classes, two students had tested positive for Covid-19 and nine were quarantined in university residence halls.
Speaking with the City Club of Cleveland's Dan Moulthrop, Sands said that CSU had tested roughly 60 students in total, all of whom were symptomatic. But he said that as the fall semester began, 4,000-5,000 students had been coming and going to the largely commuter campus all week. The current low number of cases is "one we think we can manage," he said.
Sands defended CSU's decision to resume classes in person, even though the majority of universities nationwide are opting for all-virtual formats.
"We pride ourselves on being different," Sands said. "We spent a lot of time looking at the data, and figuring out how we can spread folks out across our 85 -acre campus."
Sands said that CSU's re-start plan was based on science, and that the faculty and the university's pandemic response team had developed protocols to prevent the spread of the virus.
In addition to spatial considerations — blocking off seats in classrooms and so forth — mandatory daily health assessments and enhanced sanitation measures, Sands said one of the biggest factors in the re-start was using students as paid "ambassadors" to encourage mask-wearing and appropriate physical distancing.
"We've stressed for the last few months that this will only work if we participate as active citizens who are part of a bigger community," he said. "We want to appeal to students' sense of caring. We've seen different approaches where universities are 'cracking down' on misbehavior, but we want to use positive reinforcement. It's hard for us to blame 19 and 20-year-olds for being 19 and 20-year-olds."
Sands said that the university's preparations were paying off after one week, but that they'd be monitoring reports daily and would be ready to pull the plug and send students home if positive tests on campus started to significantly outpace the percentage of positive tests in surrounding communities.
CSU only has 700 students living in residence halls, and Sands said that each student was given their own dorm room. The biggest area of concern is when students gather in large numbers, and that may not be in the dorms at CSU. Sands said the challenge will be preventing congregation of student groups while still providing "some sort of life" for students.
According to Sands, the university's financial position was still sound, despite the pandemic and recent cuts in state funding, which accounts for about 1/3 of CSU's budget. He said CSU would not try to "cut its way to prosperity" and would continue to invest in its "core business": teaching, learning and research.
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