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The COVID Safe Campus Research Lab

About us:

Our rapid-response research is designed for action, narrative shifts and policy change – for use in advocacy directly, to make an impact in real time. We develop advocacy tools and guidance to best support those most impacted by COVID policies and lack thereof in higher education.

The COVID Safe Campus Lab centers disabled students, faculty, and staff in COVID-19 response in terms of health equity, justice, education and employment, and the health of our communities at large. Our work examines institutional COVID policy, communications, and community experiences in higher education throughout the ongoing pandemic. 

 

In the ever-changing landscape in public health and post-secondary education, COVID Safe Campus collects robust data tracking institutional policy change over time at academic institutions and affiliated healthcare facilities, in the context of broader trends in our communities and governments and disproportionate impact on disabled and multi-marginalized people in our communities.

Established from the start of CSC's founding in early 2022, the COVID Safe Campus Research Lab is interdisciplinary, independent of academic institutions, and operates fully online with team members and volunteers throughout the U.S.

Lead investigator:

Eiryn Griest Schwartzman, CHES (Public Health and Sociology)

Core team members and their academic disciplines:

  • Kris Jayme Matas (Library and Information Sciences)

  • Sara Simon (STS, History of Technology)

  • Abigail T. (Biology and Design)

  • M.H. (Political Science and Data Analytics)

  • Olivia Billis (Sociology, Environmental Science and Policy) 

Our projects: ​​

Media: our research has been featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Becker's Hospital Review, The Baltimore Sun, and Inside Higher Ed

From institutional to individual responsibility: An analysis of how top US public health schools abandoned COVID-19 mitigation policies (2023)​​

Recorded poster presentation at the 2023 American Public Health Association Annual Meeting and Expo (virtual): View on the APHA conference website
Abstract

Background: In the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, public health schools hold the dual responsibility of training the next generation of public health professionals and keeping their campus communities safe. The United States has experienced multiple nationwide COVID-19 surges in the past year, and collective disease prevention strategies remain necessary. Our research examines how well public health schools have implemented mitigation practices.

 

Methods: We conducted a longitudinal policy surveillance study tracking campus COVID-19 mitigation policies of the 2022 US News Top 25 Public Health Schools. Between August 2022 and August 2023, we captured data systematically each month, documenting the mask, test, and vaccine policies listed on each institution’s website. We also monitored the status of public-facing COVID-19 campus dashboards and read formal communications about campus policy changes. This work allowed us to track changes across institutions and observe national policy trends.

Results: Preliminary results from our yearlong analysis reveal a broad removal of policies in all metrics: masks, tests, and vaccines. Many institutions also stopped updating their COVID-19 data dashboards or removed them from public view. Notably, institutions largely did not re-implement previous policies to respond to new COVID-19 surges.

 

Conclusion: Our data reveals a shift away from collective prevention of a highly transmissible infectious disease towards an individualistic approach. This is antithetical to public health and exacerbates health inequities. Further, the widespread removal of campus COVID-19 data abdicates responsibility and prevents informed decision-making. Public health institutions should lead by example to protect both the community and the future of our field.

Authors:  

Eiryn Griest Schwartzman, Kris Jayme Matas, Abigail Thomas, M. Hughes, Sara Simon, Claire Wang

More from our study coming soon!

COVID Mitigation Is Disability Access: An analysis of COVID policies at Institutions of Higher Education across the United States (2022)

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COVID Safe Campus' poster presented at the American Public Health Association's 2022 Annual Meeting & Expo
Click to view the poster on figshare: here
Click to view the poster as a tagged PDF here
Click to view the abstract here

Recommended poster citation: 
Griest Schwartzman, E., Matas, K. J., & Bergan, C. (2022). COVID Mitigation is Disability Access: An analysis of COVID policies
            at Institutions of Higher Education across the United States (Version 1). figshare. 
            https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.21586110.v1

Our analysis of 141 universities and colleges across the US in April 2022 found none of the schools analyzed met the most protective COVID mitigation best practices.

 

Masks: 

  • 35% had a mask requirement of classroom or greater.

  • 13 % had a campus-wide mask requirement.

Hybrid:

  • Only 11% of student respondents to our policy evaluation form were offered bi-modal hybrid access to learning.


These policies were once widespread and normalized. We find these changes to be alarming.

Policy and mitigation strategy bans:

  • 48.2% of schools sampled either banned or discouraged people from requiring masks.

  • 44.2% of respondents reported their school prohibited or discouraged providing hybrid access.

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These bans are cause for concern for disabled academics, who have a right to equal opportunity. 

Both masks and remote access have been found to be reasonable modifications for disabled people. To learn more, view our advocacy letter. 

Our follow up research: the Higher Education Policy Tracking Database, Fall 2022

Currently tracking the US News Top 50 National Universities, US News Top 50 Public Health Schools, Big 10, and Ivy League.

Thus far, it has revealed deeply troubling trends since the initial research displayed in our poster. View our fall database at this link.


August 2022

  • 16% have mask requirements

  • 16% had any routine testing requirement

  • 80% had vaccine requirements

  • 46% had active COVID dashboards

September 2022

  • 14% had mask requirements

  • 16% had a routine testing requirement

  • 80% had vaccine requirements

  • 48% had active COVID dashboards

October 2022

  • 4% had mask requirements

  • 6% had a routine testing requirement

  • 80% had vaccine requirements

    • 6% now required bivalent booster

  • 44% had active COVID dashboards

November 2022​​

  • 4% had mask requirements

  • 6% had a routine testing requirement

  • 80% had vaccine requirements –– 8% now require bivalent booster

  • 44% had active COVID dashboards

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