Editorial: Informing us back to health

For all that we know, swine flu has hit campus hard. However, because news of students, faculty and staff experiencing H1N1 symptoms has not been corroborated or clarified by any official message from administrators regarding their decisions and policies for dealing with the virus, any information that students and staff who are not directly in the know have is hearsay and rumor. Actions that administrators have taken to allay the discomfort of ill students and to diminish the spread of the epidemic have been efficient and accommodating, but they have been seriously lacking in forthcoming information. Without disseminating the facts about the current situation, especially now that infected students are being sent to Mount Hope, the administration has left the rest of campus wondering what exactly is happening and what might happen to them if they become ill. The H1N1 virus, now that it has hit home, is a community issue, and we hope that the administration will end its formal silence and offer an update.

Understandably, controlling a contagious flu strain in the Purple Bubble is no small task. To their credit, the faculty and administration have been mindful of the flu’s debilitating effects and the toll it can take on students’ ability to do their work. We applaud the general attitude of leniency and patience that professors have on the whole demonstrated, encouraging students who aren’t feeling well not to come to class for their and their classmates’ benefit.

However, the relief for ill students is tempered by the rest of the student body’s lack of information about the epidemic – however much of it may even be H1N1 at all – and how widespread it is on campus. What exactly is now known about swine flu? Are any flu-like symptoms enough to render a person quarantined, or is the Health Center being more precise in its diagnoses? When swine flu first emerged as a potential epidemic last spring, the College made communication a priority, and the difference in communication between last semester and this one makes the current silence all the more striking.

Just when updates would be most appropriate – with students now being quarantined in the Mount Hope mansion far away from the main campus – they have been most wanting. The lack of information may make students with symptoms hesitant about approaching the Health Center for fear of being sent away, and it encourages paranoia about getting the illness in ridiculous and unlikely ways. If the College has avoided communication in an attempt to avert panic, it should realize that it is precisely this silence that enables speculation and fuels confusion. A healthy community is an informed community – not just a nursed one.