In the past year, Furman students have become acclimated to the word “quarantine”—some more so than others. Although the University brags about its on-campus isolation option, most students who chose to isolate in Clark Murphy’s McBee housing were underwhelmed and frustrated with the experience. Many students report widely varying experiences on the following topics: lack of clarity on time spent in quarantine, what would happen once in quarantine, and the food provided by Furman.
Freshman Georgia Whiteside commented on her experience. She said, “Students like me who cannot go home have to move into a white, void room of not much more than a loose sheet, quilt filled with holes, one pillow, and a plastic mattress.” Whiteside was kept in quarantine for twelve days, despite testing negative on three separate occasions.
Another freshman, Owen Smith, reported a similar experience to Whiteside’s. Smith entered quarantine due to a fever and was kept in McBee an extra two days after testing negative—he was not notified when he’d be allowed to leave quarantine. Despite the Health and Safety FAQ section of the Furman Focused website claiming Earle Student Health Center is “accessible by phone 24 hours a day to provide guidance,” Smith was unable to reach the health center staff on a Saturday to determine the remaining length of his quarantine.
Both freshmen, Whiteside and Smith, should have been released under the guidelines for quarantine featured in “Health and Safety FAQ”, “What does ‘quarantine’ mean for a student?” Specifically, the clause states
“Students who meet the criteria for an exposure (see above) and who remain symptom free are required to quarantine for a minimum of 7 days from the time of most recent exposure, if they are able to produce a negative COVID test sampled between day 5 and 7 post-exposure. If no such test is produced, the minimum quarantine period will be 10 days.”
Although Smith’s extra time in quarantine did not affect him mentally, Whiteside reported her time did. She said “Quarantining on-campus was hands down one of the worst experiences of my life, and I wasn’t even sick. Sitting by my phone, waiting for some sort of direction or update on my status was nauseating… I remember nights in particular when EMTs came to take two students to the hospital—I was close enough to those who were sick to know what was going on in other rooms.”
Sophomore Tait Lamb was released in a timely manner, but shared similar sentiments. “Overall, the experience was not fun—I can’t imagine staying in there for more than five days without going crazy,” she said.
Juniors Savanah Hobbie and Lindsay Diehl both also reported discrepancies in their release date information. Hobbie was told by her first physician she would be released on a Sunday, but the Health Center changed her release date to a Tuesday. Diehl originally planned on quarantining for only fourteen days and was notified after seven days she would remain in quarantine for sixteen days from her time entering quarantine. This meant Diehl was staying an extra two days she had not planned for.
Overall, most of the students placed in quarantine shared a single, one-word sentiment in their experience—confusion. And even though most students interviewed agreed they were confused on their quarantine, there was one widely varying experience—the food.
Diehl, Lamb and Smith reported they received adequate food, snacks, and liquids during their stay in quarantine. However, freshman Alex Lister, Hobbie and Whiteside reported either missing meals, or receiving meals they were unable to eat due to food allergies or other circumstances. The one thing most students agreed on was the unpredictable quality of the meals.
Smith called the meals “nasty,” and Hobbie remarked she received a piece of salmon she mistook for meatloaf, saying “the food was sometimes gross and smelly, but sometimes it was good.” Hobbie also received a cup of gluten free cheesecake with an expiration label dated March 24, 2020. The next time she received the same dessert, the “sell by” label had been taken off.
Diehl and others were not notified that their DH swipes would be taken during their time in quarantine. Diehl reports she had over 40 swipes missing, leaving her with 9 left. Hobbie was unaware that the University would take her meal swipes but did not find any missing. As for the freshmen and sophomores, they were unaware as well, but did not notice a difference due to the required unlimited meal plan.
While on-campus quarantine may be the only option some students had this past year, it was not the most consistent experience. The university itself stated “It has been our experience during the fall semester that students are much more comfortable and able to focus on their studies if able to quarantine at home or in an alternative family location where they are able to effectively self-isolate. Understandably, not all students have such access.” Lamb summed it up the best in saying “I think Furman did the best they could.”
Although Furman has not taken an official stance on whether to require vaccination in students, the University has planned for an entirely normal semester for Fall 2021. This brings the hope that quarantine and utilizing McBee as quarantine housing will be a thing of the past.