As we all know at this point, the University of Kansas has been trying to respond to the recent coronavirus news, including Gov. Laura Kelly’s expired stay-at-home order. As of Sunday, May 3, the order has expired and many normal operations are set to begin again in Kansas.
What this leaves up on the table is the University’s own schedule of reopening. Currently, a five-phase plan has been announced by Chancellor Douglas Girod and Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer to try and resume normal on-campus activities by fall. According to information provided by the Office of the Provost, the intended first primary focus is in the “gradual expansion” of research and allowing labs to reopen.
Rather than giving any set dates for when any of the five phases will occur, the University has decided to use “key indicators to help identify when we are ready to graduate to the next phase of revitalization.” This will allow the gradual increase of students and staff to return to campus until the final phase, when we will hopefully return the University to pre-quarantine conditions.
The University has not actually provided any information about where the five phases will lead, nor has it issued any exact dates or times for the students to know when to expect results. The idea of phases not involving actual set times is all well and good for making sure nothing goes awry in the pivoting toward normalcy, but students don’t even have information about when to expect the first phase to begin. How are students supposed to expect the University to be back to normal if we don’t have a clue about when the process will start?
Secondly, what good is this message about the University’s plan for forthcoming action if it provides no real gritty detail about how this is all going to happen? You’ve told us that you have a plan. Great! What’s next? What’s in the plan? What are the actual details? I would be more willing to give the University props if they gave even the slightest inkling of what is going to happen aside from telling us that they will be working toward the goal of reopening.
The University has recently included a short PDF file giving slightly more information about what will be involved in certain phases, but this does little aside from listing potential scenarios for the fall and telling the public that the University will be gathering data to know when each phase will occur next. Details are still left out. For example, in phase two, certain staff, including researchers, will be allowed to return, and what will be decided on according to leadership. But what exactly are the credentials for leadership? What is the University using to decide who is important enough to return to campus in phase two, and who will have to wait?
The problem the University has been having with providing actual information during the virus has been a constant throughout these past months. KU Today, which would have been a perfect tool for providing some information about the coronavirus impact on campus and how the University would react to it has, instead, been providing provocative information about depression in men. Even the Office of the Provost has been providing information about guidelines for travelers and where to go if you have food insecurity — all very important to know about — but hasn't mentioned anything about the University's reaction and efforts during the pandemic.
KU can’t keep leaving us out of the loop. Get better at telling us what is going on. As students who pay to attend and be involved in this school, we have every right to know what the University is doing about this pandemic and how it will be resolved.
Brett Knepper is a sophomore from Newton studying English creative writing.