Durham, NH — As the spring semester rolled in, the University of New Hampshire (UNH) resumed its classes in-person and online. UNH outlined a more rigorous but efficient coronavirus (COVID-19) testing program this semester in hopes of combating the rise of COVID-19 cases on campus.
With the updated program, the testing days for students in different colleges at UNH are as follows: College of Engineering and Physical Science (CEPS): Tuesday and Friday mornings; Paul College of Business and Economics (PAUL): Tuesday and Friday afternoons; College of Liberal Arts (COLA): Wednesday and Saturday mornings; College of health and Human Services (CHHS): Monday and Thursday mornings; College of Life Science and Agriculture (COLSA): Monday and Thursday afternoons; and Carsey, NRESS, Graduate Interdisciplinary Programs, Continuing Education or no college designation: Monday and Thursday afternoons.
As the assigned testing schedule in spring is different from last semester, many students were unsatisfied with their designated testing days. For example, a COLA student who commutes for classes everyday would have to drive to UNH on Saturday mornings to drop-off their COVID-19 tests. Students who also only have classes on certain days of the week would have to come to campus on days when they otherwise would not need to.
In an email sent out by Paul Dean, Chief of UNH Police, Associate VP for Public Safety and Risk Management and Co-Chair of UNH Testing and Tracing Committee, and Senior Vice Provost for Research, Economic Engagement and Outreach and Co-Chair of UNH Testing and Tracing Committee Marian McCord on Jan. 13, 2021, students were required to fill out a survey to confirm their testing schedules, request for change of testing days or opt out completely from UNH’s testing program.
Upon filling up this form, many students sent in a request to change their testing days to prevent inconveniences. However, some requests were denied.
But graduate student Via D’Agostino felt that it was important to voice out her concerns. In an interview with TNH, the fiction writing major highlighted that only COLA students were scheduled for testing during the weekends. “As per usual, the arts students are the ones who get screwed over. No one else has a weekend date, but we (COLA students) have to be both early morning and on Saturday,” she commented. In the fall semester, COLSA had the schedule that COLA currently has this semester.
D’Agostino explained that in addition to being a full-time student, she is also working three part-time jobs and a seasonal job, which clashes with her scheduled testing days and time. “I prioritize school hours for school, but they’ve given me a slot that falls outside of school hours, and that’s the problem. I also don’t live on campus and my jobs aren’t all UNH-related, so often I’m too far away to drive a test over the night before my morning time slot,” she added.
In the fall semester, D’Agostino was approved for a change of testing days by UNH for this same reason, however, in the spring was denied. “I’m honestly not sure why UNH has decided I can’t make the same change this semester,” she said.
D’Agostino believes that it is important for UNH to prioritize students’ requests as she knows that there are other students facing the same problem as her. “I think they should have let us pick our time slots instead of acting like overlords who can control our lives and assigning them, but if they decide they have to assign slots without consulting us, then they also have to accept that I can’t drop everything to fulfill their every whim. I’m happy to be tested, but they need to let me change the time,” she asserted.
When asked about any additional comments or concerns that she would like to publicly voice out to UNH, D’Agostino said, “I’d like to tell UNH that I am really, really trying to comply with them and that I want campus to be safe just as much as they do, maybe more, since my entire life depends on my education. But they are too unyielding with the time slots, and I can’t do as they ask.”
As the spring semester has already started, students are not permitted to request for a change of testing days anymore. However, students can request for a one-time exception to their testing schedules. Students can only apply for this exemption no more than three times per semester.