Albion College’s COVID-19 plan sparks controversy

Coronavirus

ALBION, Mich. (WOOD) — Thursday was move-in day at Albion College in mid-Michigan as its 1,500 students are back to start the fall semester, but things are going to be a lot different this years. 

Students are being tested upon their arrival and will quarantined for the 48 to 72 hours it takes to get their results. 

Students ware also required to download an app on their phone called Aura, which in addition to giving them their results will be used to track students in case they come into contact with infected people or if they try to leave the Albion area. 

“The app does record their location in the same way that your fitness app might record your run around town or your steps during the day,” said President Matthew Johnson, adding that the app is not giving the college data on the students movements and students can communicate with the school if they want to leave. “We’re trying to measure and moderate and manage the risks that might be associated with you coming back to campus.” 

He said if someone leaves without permission, they can expect to hear from administrators. 

“If you come back to campus from a concert, we’re going to ask you to go into quarantine for a few days before you reintegrate into the population,” he said. 

Johnson said the measures were taken after nine out if 10 Albion parents and students said they wanted on-campus schooling. Albion wants to avoid situations that happened at schools where campuses opened only to shut down again after outbreaks. 

Johnson said the college has medical experts that worked with college leadership to make the plan. 

Some fringe online publications seized on the college program as part of their claim that COVID-19 is being used to curtail freedom. An online petition has gathered a couple thousand signatures, mostly from people with no association with the college. 

“Having my location on at all times with the college, I’m not comfortable with. That’s an invasion of my privacy and I stand behind that. It’s a firm belief of mine,” said Hayden Bakker, a 2017 Holland Christian High School graduate.

Bakker says he loves Albion and is OK with the other restrictions, but he would rather be taking classes online than have restrictions that mean he can’t earn money delivering groceries.

 “Let us leave, let us go to work, let us see our family, let us see our friends,” Bakker said.

But many students see the restrictions as the price to be paid for spending time on their beautiful, beloved campus. 

A group of students hanging out in the courtyard said they are grateful to be on campus even with the restrictions. 

“I appreciate the rules. It may stink right now, but this is what we all wanted. We all wanted to be here, so I appreciate it,” said one sophomore. 

They said having to go home after a few weeks would be worse. 

“One case could explode and every single person could have it, which would be awful,” another student said. 

Johnson said the plan works for Albion with its small population but would not work for a larger school. 

He said most parents are grateful for the safe environment provided to their students. 

“We look at those outcomes, rather than the noise and we are confident in our approach,” Johnson said. 

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