Ball State students react to president's letter addressing rise in COVID-19 cases

<p>A car sits parked with &quot;Wearing Is Caring&quot; painted in the window Aug. 29 near the Arts and Journalism building. On AUg. 28, Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns sent out an email to students about COVID-19 cases at Ball State. <strong>Charles Melton, DN</strong><br/><br/></p>

A car sits parked with "Wearing Is Caring" painted in the window Aug. 29 near the Arts and Journalism building. On AUg. 28, Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns sent out an email to students about COVID-19 cases at Ball State. Charles Melton, DN

After the possibility of students having to move off campus before Thanksgiving break presented itself again, students had mixed feelings on whether in-person classes should continue.

Some argue leaving campus will help keep the Ball State community safe. Others call into question the policies put in place at Ball State and whether or not they are effective.

As of 3:20 p.m. Sept. 3, the university has seen more than 600 positive cases, with 266 coming from IU Health and 401 coming from other sources, primarily self reports.

Near the end of the first week of classes, Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns sent out a campus-wide email warning students that their actions over the following weekend would “impact whether we are able to continue to provide the on-campus experience that students have told us they value.”

In the email, Mearns said the cause for the rise in positive COVID-19 cases at Ball State was “some” students’ actions off campus and not linked to academic activities or students living in residence halls.

“Our Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities prohibits conduct that causes or threatens harm to the health or safety of another person, both on and off campus,” he said in the email. 

He added that the university is “taking appropriate disciplinary action against several students and three fraternities,” with consequences for breaking policy including suspension and expulsion. 

Knowing his on-campus experience could be affected by other students, Paul Butler, sophomore music media production major, said the letter was “anxiety-provoking.” He added that it was good that Mearns made a statement.

While the possibility of moving back home early “makes your heart sink a little bit,” he said if moving home is better for the safety of the university, then he is “all for it.”

“I'm more than willing to go back home if that's what needs to happen to help out other people to not get sick and spread it,” he said.

Chance Green, junior English major, said Mearns’ letter was accusing students for the rise in cases, while he believes the issue was the university reopening campus.

Because Ball State had already been online in the past, Green said, there was “a step that needed to be taken” to move fully online and not bring students back to campus.

“I think [Mearns is] accusing the students of not social distancing,” he said, “but Ball State was the one that brought all the students together — to have been quarantined and socially confined on their own for months, and they brought them all together and then were shocked when they wanted to socialize and have the college experience.”

Green said while the letter accused students of partying, the university continues to have Late Nite, a weekly gathering hosted by Ball State.

Butler said, as an out-of-state student, it would “be a bummer for him to move out of Indiana again.”

“I love it here at Ball State, and I have all the opportunities to succeed here,” Butler said.

He said he was not sure whether or not he had been refunded for his payment on a dormitory room, but added that he was refunded for the rest of the semester last year.

The in-person classes Green has, he said, discuss changes for online learning more than the class material itself. A lot of professors don’t have experience working solely online, and “they shouldn’t have been expected to” know how, Green said.

As a bassoon player, Butler takes in-person music lessons, which he said is “crucial” so the instructor can see his hand movements. The second week of classes, he will be starting in band, and he said his instructors will be “precise” about social distancing and sanitization.

One of Green’s main concerns is he doesn’t know what the future holds for his education or for his career.

“I [really] have no concept of how it is going to look,” he said. “This is a new situation for all of us.”

Contact Charles Melton with comments at or on Twitter @Cmelton144.


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