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EDITORIAL: Changes to on-campus life must be well planned ahead of fall semester

Rutgers' decision to change the bus routes will negatively affect all students as they navigate the four campuses in New Brunswick this coming fall.  – Photo by Wikimedia

With the help of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, we will all be returning to the Rutgers campus in the fall. All of a sudden, we will see our friends again, walk to class again and drastically reduce our screen time.

It will be just like old times, with a few caveats of course. The Rutgers administration is working to create policies that will keep us safe this coming semester, but as they try to navigate operating a campus at full capacity during a pandemic, they will no doubt make a few mistakes. 

They will have to regulate dining halls, common areas and the notorious Rutgers bus system. There are a lot of details to consider and unintended consequences to predict, but one thing is clear: The Rutgers administration should listen to the concerns of its students when shaping the way their fall semester will look. 

Dining halls, a place where students can congregate and hang out or just eat a meal, will have to be reimagined. Rutgers will likely need to adhere to New Jersey’s indoor dining rules. We can try to create social distancing by limiting seating options, changing dining hall hours or relying more on takeout.

Whatever the policy, Rutgers must try to make meals available for students at reasonable times. Someone with a packed schedule should not find themselves going hungry because the dining halls are poorly coordinated. 

When it comes to other common areas like libraries and student centers, Rutgers should consider blocking off seating areas to help with social distancing. In settings such as libraries, most people tend to social distance anyway, making the implementation of such safety policies simple.

That said, Rutgers has a history of policy mistakes. The most recent major blunder has come with the changing of the bus schedules, which reduces the number of bus stops compared to pre-pandemic routes and does not service Cook campus at all. University spokesperson Carissa Sestito said the shortened bus routes reflect the University's pursuit of a climate-conscious approach to on-campus transportation by reducing carbon emissions.

Unfortunately, this decision coincides with one of the most infectious diseases we have seen in our lifetime and will most certainly increase the amount of crowding on the buses. 

While the Climate Task Force rejoices, the students that will have to trudge across Cook campus in the middle of November are most certainly not happy about the decision. Campuses like Cook and Busch will have the most crowding at the few bus stops they are allowed to keep.

While the Rutgers administration said they can make the appropriate changes to the routes as the semester progresses, first-years and sophomores who have never seen the New Brunswick campus will have to navigate their new home without having access to adequate transportation. 

The surviving bus stops will be crowded with angry students who will bemoan the loss of common sense bus policy. And what will happen when these disgruntled young adults board the buses themselves? They will either be packed like sardines or have to wait for another bus to come in order to maintain social distancing.

The advice given to first-years is often to apportion more time than you think necessary for your commute, but with these newfangled bus routes, students might have to camp out in front of lecture halls the night before to make it on time. 

Rutgers should keep the original, pre-pandemic bus routes for this coming fall and focus on ways to make the buses themselves less crowded. This will no doubt require some ingenuity, but it can be done. Making buses run on a more predictable schedule may be one way that people can avoid the crowds. 

Whatever solution the administration finally settles on, the way we as students can help is by continuing to follow COVID-19 guidelines, get vaccinated and socially distance to the best of our ability. Common sense practices will ensure that there are no COVID-19 spikes.

Students must also change their habits to accommodate the number of changes to on-campus life. Avoid dining halls during peak hours, make sure not to sit too close to other students at any given student center and do your best to avoid taking the bus during rush hour.

In many ways, the administration relies on students to figure out the best ideas to keep everyone safe. As students, we must keep an eye on Rutgers’ COVID-19 policy as it is updated, bit by bit, and voice our concerns when nonsense decisions are made. 

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 153rd editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.


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