ED BOARD: WSU administrators ‘plow’ ahead with in-person semester, despite complaints of omicron variant, pass closures

Pandemic has given us technology to adapt to dangerous conditions, administrators should make use of it



“You may think snow has nothing to do with discussion about COVID, but the lack of communication, lack of care for safety of staff, and lack of leadership is evident with snow, and COVID,” wrote one town hall commenter Thursday morning.


WSU administrators ended a COVID-19 Town Hall early following numerous irate complaints about starting the semester in person in the face of COVID-19 outbreaks and dangerous weather conditions.

Administrators seem to have short-term memory loss when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, as in fall 2020, Pullman was ranked No. 1 in the nation for viral outbreaks. 

Asking students to return to campus when the omicron variant is so widespread is asking for trouble. If administrators choose not to pursue a first week online, there should be better options for hybrid learning for students who do not feel comfortable meeting in person. 

Other state universities, including WSU’s institutional peer, University of Washington, announced the term would start online for at least a week to prevent outbreaks of the now-widespread omicron variant. Because WSU is a semester school — and most other universities are on the quarter system  — administrators felt the later start would diffuse the problem of viral spread. 

Administrators asked faculty to be lenient with students who may not be able to make it to in-person class sessions during the first week. 

But students and parents are worried faculty would not provide adequate remote learning options because administrators are not requiring it. Many faculty members had attendance requirements with minimal exemptions for illness because administrators pushed the idea of a “robust in-person experience.” 

Furthermore, a winter storm is creating dangerous road conditions across the state. Multiple passes are closed until Saturday, including Snoqualmie Pass on the I-90 corridor and White Pass near Yakima

Administrators encouraged students to drive carefully and make plenty of time for the journey back to WSU. However, students have no control over the pass closures and the thousands of students trying to cross the pass over one weekend could make driving conditions even more treacherous. 

Winter weather conditions have also caused many flights to be canceled out of Seattle-Tacoma and Spokane, and students who have to fly back to campus are worried they might not make it.

In previous years, WSU would not have changed class schedules because of road closures or weather conditions after break. Fortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has equipped us with the technology and resources to offer remote learning in the face of dangerous conditions. 

Administrators should use the technology at their fingertips to create a safer learning environment for all students, rather than expecting them to risk their safety to return to campus.

Offering the first week online does not mean WSU students will receive any less of a “robust in-person experience.” Rather, it will offer them safety and flexibility in their education to start the semester off right.