The Great ‘Titans Return’ hoax


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Joseph Schulz, Managing Editor

As UW Oshkosh administrators guided members of the media through the socially distanced campus Sept. 1, Chancellor Andrew Leavitt told reporters his “top priority is going to be the safety and welfare of everybody.”

But if Leavitt, or anyone in university administration for that matter, really cared about our health and well-being, the dorms would still be empty and courses would be entirely online.

And if your class schedule is anything like mine, then you’re probably taking classes online for the most part anyway, as my two courses that were intended to be delivered in-person have now gone 50% digital.

I, like most UWO students, was sincerely looking forward to returning to in-person instruction. But with 75% of my education online less than a week in, I just can’t see how the benefits of keeping students in residence halls outweighs the risks.

As a campus community, we’re essentially risking a public health catastrophe to receive an education that, no matter what Leavitt says, can’t compare to the education we received before the pandemic.

Yet, students are paying the same amount for tuition that we paid before the coronavirus came to America.

As someone who was deemed an “essential worker,” I never left the labor force during the statewide stay-at-home order.

If I can work in a crowded kitchen for six months where social distancing is not an option, and a cloth mask has been enough to protect me from infection at the workplace, then why isn’t it enough to protect me in the classroom?

I’m not saying we should throw caution to the wind when it comes to managing the pandemic.

On the contrary, I think the UW System should have bitten the bullet and moved online, especially if our return to in-person instruction is going to be a half-assed attempt.

All of Leavitt’s bluster about trying to give students the highest quality of instruction, as safely as possible is mostly a smokescreen.

Don’t kid yourself; the real reason for the “Titans Return” plan has always been to cover the university’s ass financially. It has never been about delivering an education equivalent to our education before the pandemic.

Back in April, Leavitt described the university’s financial situation as “OK” but “not great,” after sending students home and issuing refunds for campus housing, dining and parking.

If UWO had not brought students back to the dorms, it’s financial situation would likely be a lot worse than “OK.”

No one wants to see the university go bankrupt, especially not me. For the rest of my life, every opportunity that I get will — in large part — be because of my time at UWO.

However, there’s already one resident hall that forced its entire CA staff to quarantine, prior to the start of classes.

So, we should ask ourselves, how sustainable is it to keep students in on-campus housing?

One weekend. That’s all it will take before UWO’s carefully crafted house of cards begins to crumble under the weight of drunk college kids.

If we need a roadmap for the future of this semester, we need look no further than UW-Madison, which welcomed students back several weeks earlier than we did and has seen a recent spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases. On Wednesday, the university announced that all in-person undergraduate, graduate and professional school group instruction will be paused from Sept. 10-25, with classes canceled Sept. 10-12. Classes will resume remotely Sept. 14 for at least two weeks. In addition, students in two residence halls will quarantine in place for two weeks due to the high  number of positive test results.

Prior to moving classes online, UW-Madison had seen nearly 1,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and new daily infections in Dane County are the highest they’ve been since the pandemic began. In the last five days alone, new cases in the county are five times higher than what they were in August.

“Since Sept. 1, at least 74% of Dane County’s new COVID positive cases were from the UW,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, in a letter to university officials, urging them to send undergrads home.

How long until Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris pens a similar letter to Leavitt?

Will a student have to die before university administration begins to see its vast miscalculation?

Compared to pre-pandemic times and despite the best efforts of professors, the education students are receiving this semester is a joke, unworthy of its steep price tag and the risk to students living in the dorms.

I understand that administrators were dealt a bad hand from the start. Year after year, the Republican-controlled state legislature makes their jobs more difficult and the situation has only worsened amid the pandemic.

But for the love of God, please stop trying to con your students and the public into believing that the Titans Return plan will ensure safety, while delivering the high quality education that’s expected from a UW System institution.

Let’s admit it, the Titans Return plan is a sham, designed to convince naive first-year students to live in the residence halls and convince returning students that their education is worthy of the same monetary value that it had pre-pandemic.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Advance-Titan. This story was updated to include additional UW-Madison actions.