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Adam Furman ’22: It’s time for campus to reopen for more in-person interactions

The University’s COVID-19 testing program has been a definitive success. With only a couple dozen positive cases, the University conducts hundreds, if not thousands, of tests each day. With such a well-designed and efficient program, Brown and its informed, cooperative and committed students have demonstrated that public health success is possible in these trying times.

All of this testing is to no end, however, if the thing it aims to protect does not exist: the University’s in-person academic and social community. Testing should be a means to ensure that in-person activities, attended by the responsible students that have set Brown apart from other institutions during this pandemic, can go ahead.

Obviously, this does not mean throwing caution to the wind and packing lecture halls with hundreds of people. But there are many small, online classes that should be encouraged to switch to hybrid instruction if instructors are comfortable doing so. In addition, TAs and professors should be able and encouraged to hold more in-person and hybrid office hours and discussion sections. More student organizations, especially those that center around activities impossible to replicate over Zoom, should be allowed to reserve spaces and plan events instead of being forced to hold events virtually. The frequent testing the University has been doing and the better understanding we now have of how the virus is spread can allow for these events to take place safely in person.

Accessibility is important as well, which is why classes and professors should remain available remotely through hybrid in-person and online sessions. But for those students who have taken the personal risk of coming to live on or near campus and have been deeply committed to following the University’s testing guidelines, accessibility also means opening up more of the in-person resources that students have been patiently waiting to access.

These resources run the gamut from classrooms to work spaces to dining halls ― even to  seemingly mundane things like printers and bathrooms. Have you tried to print something recently, like perhaps an absentee ballot application? That printer is nowhere to be found. Instead of closing off access completely, the University should take steps to ensure these in-person resources can be accessed safely. With many of these resources come staff and student job openings, and not providing them at all greatly increases financial burden, particularly to low-income and first-generation students.

Students’ mental health is an equally important consideration. In March, the vast majority of students had to contend with the challenges of packing up and moving their lives back home in the middle of a pandemic. Many lost their sources of income, and some even lost family members to the virus or became infected with COVID-19 themselves. Prolonged quarantine can have a devastating impact on one’s outlook, and this should be taken into consideration.

The hope for Brown students lucky enough to be able to return to campus was that they could bring at least a small part of their old lives back ― to interact with friends, to sit in a classroom and to stop by a dining hall  for a spicy with. That is why they have been so vigilant and so responsive to the testing program. After all, if one has no classes, study sessions or club activities to go to and spends most days in a barren dorm with the recommended minimum personal effects, , do we really need to be tested every four days?

The reality is that in-person interactions are a crucial part of a Brown education. President Paxson P’19 knew this when she advocated for safely reopening schools in her New York Times op-ed back in April, and she and her team of administrators realized their ambitious plan by implementing the testing program. But now, the fruits of that effort are ungathered. What has been gathered, however, is the money from thousands of students who came to Providence and enrolled in the testing program instead of staying home or taking leave.

As the University’s endowment garners the largest growth in the Ivy League, Brown should prove that it is truly committed to education and community, not just to accumulating wealth. It suggested a commitment to in-person interaction through its published plans and has already secured students’ funds. It has kept students safe by precisely monitoring the spread of the disease. Now it should move forward and let the community thrive.

Adam Furman ’22 can be reached at Please send responses to this opinion to and op-eds to

This article was updated at 9:00 pm on October 20 to reflect wording changes made in a final round of editing that were not implemented due to an editing error.



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