Following the strict COVID-19 regulations implemented by The University of Tampa and over 800 total positive COVID-19 tests reported last semester, the UT community has seen some changes in COVID-19 cases and campus protocols.
Since the start of the spring semester, the weekly COVID-19 reports have remained under 25, including the week following the Super Bowl. There may be a couple of reasons why the university has seen few positive cases this far into the semester.
“Despite some lapses, I believe the UT community is becoming more comfortable with the guidelines in the Spartan Shield Safety Plan, and mask-wearing, physical distancing, health assessments, and handwashing is becoming routine,” said Gina Firth, associate dean of Wellness. “Also, there is a possibility we are building a population-level immunity.”
Whether students receive COVID-19 tests at the Dickey Health and Wellness Center on campus or at an off-campus location, all positive and negative results returned by UT students are accounted for.
“All testing results – be it positive or negative – must be reported to the Florida Department of Health (DOH),” said Firth. “We meet with DOH regularly, and they contact UT’s Medical Services if they learn of a COVID-19 case that hasn’t been reported if the testing has occurred in Hillsborough County.”
Urso Hall and the Barrymore Hotel are still being utilized as the designated relocation spaces for students who test positive for COVID-19.
“Designated quarantine and isolation locations allow us to prepare supply kits for students ahead of time and streamline the reassignment process for students and staff,” said Jennifer Scaia, associate dean of Student Conduct, Orientation, and Residence Life. “We recognize that students may have concerns and questions about entering into a quarantine or isolation space. This advanced preparation helps us improve the information and basic supplies necessary for their time in quarantine.”
Those who are relocated to Urso Hall or the Barrymore Hotel to quarantine continue to be provided with two meals a day during their isolation period.
There are still consequences for those who do not follow the university’s protocol regarding quarantine.
“Students who violate quarantine and isolation requirements or the Spartan Shield Health Safety Plan may be referred to the Office of Student Conduct,” said Scaia. “Each case is unique, and sanctions are dependent on the specific situation.”
Regulations regarding in-person events and group gatherings seem to be a little more relaxed, but there are certain stipulations that students must continue to follow.
“Students cannot have visitors in their residence hall rooms, but residential students can visit one another in common areas and community spaces,” said Firth.
While the university has taken actions to try and create a safe environment for students, there are some students who are concerned about the safety of themselves as well as their friends.
Gabrielle Thomas, senior management information systems major, has been a remote learner since March of 2020, but she is still concerned about the safety of her friends who are still on campus.
“Last semester, one of my good friends had a panic attack because some of those things that the university was claiming that they had set up wasn’t a reality,” said Thomas.
Her skepticism of campus regulations contributed to her decision to remain a remote student.
“I didn’t see any reduction or any plan on how they were reducing the amount of students in the classroom,” said Thomas.
As for UT’s Greek Life organizations, they still have to follow strict guidelines, but they are adjusting as best as they can.
“There are consequences if they are holding off-campus parties, because what we have been directing specifically to fraternities and sororities is that they should not be gathering in large groups. They should not be having house parties. They should not be having any events that include alcohol,” said Ryne Burds, assistant director of Fraternity and Sorority Life.
Before hosting events, the university still requires Greek organizations to submit all events through EngageUT to ensure that the events align with UT’s COVID-19 guidelines.
Greek Life organizations have also faced some challenges this semester.
“My groups are huge,” said Burds. “I have sororities that are like 170 in size of members.”
With a lack of spaces for sororities and fraternities to hold meetings while in compliance with Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, they have had to come up with creative ways like in-person meetings outside and taking shifts to meet and interact with one another.
During the Fall semester, events were mostly virtual, but the university has allowed Greek Life organizations as well as other campus organizations to hold in-person events as long as they comply with the CDC guidelines.
For things like community service events, some Greek Life organizations are breaking up their chapters and doing the community service in shifts rather than having the entire chapter attend community service events at once.
“It’s hard to manage and it’s been interesting to ensure that our groups are being compliant,” said Burds.
The UT community is being asked to help in the effort to hold Greek Life organizations accountable if they are not complying with CDC guidelines and UT’s Spartan Shield Safety Plan.
“If our groups are not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, please report them so we can hold them accountable,” said Burds. “We can’t do that unless we know about it.”
There are some students who feel that campus policies are not being equally enforced with all student organizations.
“I think UT is doing a good job, but most importantly the rules need to be enforced equally,” said Isaiah Stephens, freshman double major in new media and marketing. “I often see that the rules are more lenient for predominantly Caucasian organizations compared to organizations of color. I would like to see more equal treatment for all students and organizations here at UT.”
The university asks that all students remain in compliance with the safety precautions in place for everyone’s health.
“While we recognize that with this age group COVID-19 symptoms typically are not severe; it is important to remember that we need to protect our vulnerable population — those that are older and those who have medical issues,” said Firth. “This is why we must continue to follow the Spartan Shield Safety Plan, and I appreciate the many students who regularly take precautions and follow the plan.”