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Undergraduates, pre-college high school students reflect on sharing campus

Brown divides facilities between undergraduate, pre-college with health, safety protocols kept separate among the two groups

With pre-college programs returning to campus, bringing hundreds of high school students to College Hill at a limited capacity compared to prior years, undergraduate students taking classes during the summer as part of the University’s three-term plan find themselves sharing campus with high schoolers.

The two groups are by and large kept separate, according to Adrienne Marcus, dean of pre-college and summer undergraduate programs. The pre-college students’ protocols do not directly mimic those of the undergraduate students. Pre-college students must also wear masks indoors and outdoors, except when eating in their small cohorts of less than 10 people, and are required to be tested twice a week as opposed to once for undergraduates.

“In a normal summer, we would have many more sessions and close to 2,400 pre-college students on campus at any one time,” Marcus wrote in an email to The Herald. This summer, she added, they brought only 380 students to campus.

The programs themselves have changed to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic. University administrators have created schedules for the high school students that set out their class times, meals and curfews, a change from previous years when students had more flexibility.

The University has also made sure to separate many of the facilities used by pre-college students from those used by undergraduates, with the pre-college students being designated to the Verney-Woolley Dining Hall. Pre-college students also make use of specifically designated classrooms and labs, as well as a separate testing center.

Some undergraduate students have criticized the program and questioned whether the University adequately considered the impact on first-years, according to Christopher Vanderpool ’24.

“Brown could have done a lot more to help us undergrads in terms of giving us more options” for the summer, Vanderpool said. He added that while a pre-college program may help high school students gain a tangible perspective on a university, he wished Brown had shifted some of the resources given to pre-college students back to undergraduates.

Though many undergraduate students underwent quarantine Quiet Periods for the fall, spring and summer semesters, the pre-college students did not have to undergo such processes. “All these different opportunities that the high schoolers are getting right off the bat,” undergraduates had to wait for or missed out on while beholden to guidelines for much of this year, Vanderpool said.

Vanderpool told The Herald that he has “no animosity towards the high schoolers themselves,” but is instead frustrated with the way the University handled the pre-college programs in general, adding that he feels undergraduate students were given “the wrong end of the stick.”

Logan Danker ’24 said interaction between undergraduates and high school students is minimal, addings that he occasionally sees them “across the Green” or runs into some students while walking to meals.

For Danker, a North Campus resident, the most noticeable effect of the high schoolers on campus has been the lack of access to the V-Dub limiting his meal options, which he described as “mildly inconvenient.”

Danker believes that even though public health circumstances have improved due to the vaccine development and high vaccination rates of the student body, the University still should not have taken the risk.

Both Danker and Vanderpool expressed concern about the health risks that the high school students posed. According to Marcus, around 70 percent of the high school students on campus are vaccinated. She added that many of the health protocols surrounding the pre-college programs still in place were created with the assumption that no one was vaccinated.

University Spokesperson Brain Clark emphasized that the pre-college programs were “carefully planned from a health and safety standpoint to coincide with the larger population of Brown students on campus for the summer team.” According to Clark, there were no positive COVID tests among pre-college students in the first session, and he expects “a gradual return to more traditional operations” as the “vaccination rates and overall public health situation continue to improve over the summer term.”

Some of Brown’s peer institutions opted not to host similar programs this summer due to COVID-19 precautions. Harvard and Yale moved programs online, while Penn cancelled its summer program through Wharton. For the high school students at Brown, the University’s in-person option was what attracted them to the pre-college programs in the first place.

Isabella Tang, a rising high school senior who goes to school in Connecticut, said that one of the biggest draws of Brown’s pre-college programs was that they were some of the “only programs” that had in-person components this summer.

“I just really wanted to experience what it’s like to learn at Brown, and I think the Brown pre-college program does a good job in that,” Tang said.

With college application season approaching, Tang said that it can be difficult to determine fit without visiting a campus in person. 

“It’s really difficult for us to research our universities because it’s occurring in the pandemic and there aren’t a lot of on-campus visits at all, so this is really a great way for us to get to know what it’s like to learn here,” Tang added.

Although it can be “intimidating” at times to share the campus with college students, Tang appreciates the opportunity to “understand what it’s truly like to be an undergrad at Brown.”

Another pre-college student, Julianna Birn, said the programs give her a “preview of what it would be like to be in college.”

While there may be some mingling outside on the greens, there is little to no interaction between undergraduates and the pre-college students in enclosed spaces, Birn said.

“I think they did a good job in managing protocols, and when I look back on this camp, I won’t think of COVID being a big factor in the camp, and I don’t think it limited us a lot. … Overall I think they did a really good job.”



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