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On April 21, 2021, the Clemson Division of Student Affairs sent an email announcing changes to the COVID-19 quarantine policy. If students upload proof of COVID-19 vaccination and then come into contact with a positive case, as long as they remain asymptomatic, they will not need to quarantine.

The Tiger posted an article (“Fully vaccinated individuals not required to quarantine after COVID exposure” - April 23, 2021) stating that “this update to the university’s COVID-19 procedure aligns with CDC guidelines for fully vaccinated people without COVID-like symptoms.”

The problem is that the CDC continues to attach caveats to its guidelines about matters still being subject to investigation, and nobody yet knows whether fully-vaccinated people can or cannot be carriers and infectious – not even, by its own admission, the CDC. Plus, the inherent risks may be greater on Clemson campus given that Clemson is not requiring students or staff to get vaccinated in order to return to campus in Fall 2021.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand why Clemson is laser-focused on trying to find any way possible to give the impression that the Clemson campus in Fall 2021 will be normal, and they are loosening protocols accordingly.

But, so long as Clemson administration and their medical advisers are not prepared to say that it will be completely safe to return to campus in Fall 2021 – and no member of Clemson administration or its medical advising team is willing to say that – then, is it fair to force Clemson students and staff back onto a campus that is potentially still unsafe for them?

Students have had to put up with lockdown, isolation, quarantine and testing for a year. It has been demanding and stressful. It has taken a toll on learning ability and mental health. Many students feel that they are healthy enough to be able to make their own decisions as adults about whether to take the risk of catching COVID on campus. And they should be allowed the right to make that decision for themselves.

The argument is not that students are putting other students at risk; it is that Clemson is creating a pea-soup of potentially infectious students, whether asymptomatic or not, whether vaccinated or not, who might give COVID to other students, faculty and staff who have been forced back onto campus. And the majority of the latter are being forced back onto campus. Let’s be quite clear about that.

Students have already been told that, notwithstanding the fact that they do not need to be vaccinated to return to campus, all students will be expected to be on campus in Fall 2021, unless they can register an extreme risk with Student Accessibility Services before then.

What happened to the declarations by Clemson that no student who felt uncomfortable with COVID would be forced to engage with in-person classes? What happened to the promise that money was no option in keeping students safe? What has changed so much that these assurances should now be abandoned?

No one, least of all the CDC, is pretending that the COVID situation has returned to normal – the CDC still can not say that vaccinated people cannot infect others; just that the risk is low. If this is the general direction of Clemson policy, what can we expect next: self-screening to replace full testing with the only remaining measure being that, if you’re asymptomatic, you’re safe for anyone at risk?

Again, unless Clemson can say that it is totally safe to return to campus in Fall 2021, wouldn’t it be more sensible and safer to maintain the existing policy that says that every student who wishes to continue studying online should be allowed to do so without any need to prove extremity?

Isn’t it reasonable to suggest that the alternative makes it look like Clemson is blithely putting students’ health at risk, not for medical reasons, but for financial ones, when we were promised this would not happen?

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