UMass parents displeased by student activity restrictions

Students deserve to have more freedom now, parents say

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(Nina Walat/Daily Collegian)

By Aidan Poole, Collegian Staff

Since the University of Massachusetts raised its operational posture to “High” on Feb. 7, parents have expressed distaste for restrictions on student activity but hope the semester will improve.

Donnamarie McGlynn, the mother of an on-campus sophomore, said she was,“mostly surprised and disappointed” that the University hit the “High” risk level just a week into its spring semester.

“I can’t believe it happened so quickly,” she said, adding that she “didn’t feel like enough precaution was taken” by the school to prepare for 60 percent residential capacity.

Holly Kesin, the mother of another on-campus sophomore, said she was “furious.”

“It seemed like they weren’t prepared” to let that many students back, she said.

Kesin believes the restrictions associated with the high-risk level, such as a temporary ban on students leaving their on-campus residences to walk, were “too far.” She also thinks the school overstepped by “telling students they couldn’t work.” Instead, she said the school “should’ve left that up to companies to decide.” She added that prohibiting students from going home “seemed too strict” because “the only students that would leave are the ones that are serious [about COVID-19].”

Kesin supported the Feb. 22 reduction to the “Elevated” risk level, saying that “Students deserve to have more freedom now.”

McGlynn’s sentiment was similar. She said students were misled by the University, which essentially “brought them back to be in prison.”

Gene McGlynn, Donnamarie’s husband, said “I think moving it down [to ‘Elevated’] was a good idea.”

“You need to let students move around,” he said. “As long as they social distance and wear a mask.”

Susan Rozak, the mother of an on-campus student said, “I think it’s dangerous” to restrict students to dorms because “you’re not stopping kids from getting together, you’re just pushing it all indoors.”

Since indoor gatherings are associated with quick spread of the virus, she said the University shouldn’t limit outdoor access.

“[UMass] should follow the Massachusetts guidelines” for crafting on-campus rules, instead of formulating its own policies, Rozak said. Gene McGlynn called the school’s policies “above and beyond” the state’s norm.

On the other hand, Kesin thinks that additional restrictions could help keep students safe, just not the restrictions the University chose. She pointed out that “if there was oversight into who went into students’ dorms” during the day, it would limit indoor gatherings. She also pinned the initial spike in COVID-19 cases on the school’s failure to “require students to show up [to campus] with a negative test.”

Even at 60 percent residential capacity, she said “if they were more organized about it, it would have been fine.”

As restrictions continue to limit most student activities, Kesin said “they’re getting what they can get” in terms of traditional “college experience.” She hopes that students “can eat in the dining commons and that sports continue” as the semester progresses to allow some normalcy.

Donnamarie McGlynn also hopes for conditions to improve, pointing to “the fact that we’ll be able to get outside more” when weather improves as a positive sign for students.

Aidan Poole can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @aidanmpoole.