Duquesne oversteps administrative boundaries

Staff Editorial | 08/27/20

Welcome back to Duquesne University. We are exhilarated to have you back on campus, but remember that spending time with friends is strictly prohibited.

Duquesne has been placed in a difficult position — being pressured to reopen while equally as pressured to take measures to keep students safe are inherently contradictory.

Students received an email from Dr. Douglas Frizzell on Thursday, Aug. 20, announcing a newly-instated ban on all off-campus programs and social gatherings. The strictly-worded message outlined the punishments for violation of the new policy.

“First Offense – Probation for up to one year and offenders will be prohibited from the University Campus.
Second Offense – Suspension from the University.”

It is not fair for the university to bring students back, citing the importance of in-person interactions while fundamentally banning all external social gatherings.

The motivation behind the strongly-worded email is clear: the university wants to discourage partying and other large gatherings. Duquesne has decided the only way to make students listen is to be strict. The reality of the situation is no amount of threats will stop partying. These restrictions are like putting a bandaid over a gaping wound, and serve more to provide a safety net of deniability in the chance of a large outbreak among students.

Governing what students can do and who they interact with in their off-campus housing, which is paid for completely independently of the university – feels like a massive overstep in authority.
Duquesne’s administration should not be threatening students with punishments for things it can never hope to legitimately enforce.

Even before the pandemic, college has always been stressful for many, but the friends made along the way help make it all worth it. Today we are living through a more stressful time than ever before; every single day could bring news that fundamentally changes our lives. Small social gatherings and human interaction are some of the only things that grant any semblance of normalcy.

In a follow-up email answering frequently asked questions, the recipient was asked:

“If these guidelines or the message cause extra stress or aggravate existing mental health challenges, what resources are available to help with feelings of isolation and anxiety?”

To which the administration directed students to the services of the Wellbeing Center. That’s really not good enough. Even with expansions to the services provided, no institution is equipped to take on the insurmountable mental pressures created by the pandemic.

Duquesne University cannot confidently say its mental health infrastructure is prepared to meet the needs of each and every student in a remotely timely manner.

There are a lot of steps the students of Duquesne need to take in order for this year to go by smoothly, and the university is right in wanting to discourage large gatherings. However, cracking the whip on students for simply wanting to spend some time with their friends is not the way forward.