Lorenzo DeMalia –As the fall semester begins, students are adjusting to living on campus during a global pandemic. During this uncertain time, students are starting to question if the administration has their best interest in mind. This coming off of Fitchburg State’s decision to move health services to an off-campus location. Students are especially frustrated with the administration’s decision, as the change was implemented without any student input.
“We would never have made the move at this time if we didn’t have half the staff retire in May,” said Vice President of Student Affairs Laura Bayless Ph.D. “This would have been a year or two long process if not for the pandemic”.
One of the staff members that retired was the Director of Health Services, Martha Favre. Bayless explained that a job search in higher education takes roughly three months, and expanding on-campus health services would have come with the implementation of a health service fee.
On Friday, July 24, Fitchburg State sent out the student repopulation plan, which mentions Fitchburg State’s partnership with Community Health Connections. CHC promotes healthcare in local communities by providing education, and a wide variety of health and wellness programs. It also briefly mentions that changes to health services were expected to occur. However, it did not mention that the administration was considering moving health services off-campus.
The administration received news of their staff’s retirement in May and were considering this change in their email sent out in July. Understandably, the student body is upset with the lack of communication, with some students not knowing about the change until they had already begun moving onto campus. “It’s a fair criticism,” said Dr. Bayless when asked about the lack of communication in the repopulation plan.
The partnership with CHC does provide students with expanded medical and dental care, as well as expanded hours and weekend availability. The ACTION Center, located in the Market Basket shopping center on Water Street is within walking distance from campus for students living in Simmons. But, for students living in Mara Village, it is far more inconvenient. Although the ACTION center is within walking distance, most students don’t feel comfortable walking off campus, especially at night.
Traveling off-campus for health care during a pandemic has students feeling uneasy. The university continues to stand by its decision, as the hybrid fall semester to roll on.