Saint Anselm College’s COVID-19 prevention efforts: more reactive than proactive

As the average daily number of new cases in New Hampshire continues to rise, more than doubling now, from 40 new cases a day to 100 new cases a day, worries stir on campus over the college’s COVID-19 response. 

With COVID-19 cases rising in New Hampshire as well as nationally, the second semester will provide a new set of challenges for the college. The Hilltopper spoke with some of the students who have spent time in isolation housing as well as Director of Health Services Maura Marshall to better understand how these circumstances will impact the remainder of the year.

Saint Anselm College has seen a relatively low number of COVID-19 cases compared to other schools in the area such as the University of New Hampshire. Marshall attributes the low transmission rate across campus to the college’s ability to quickly find and isolate outbreaks on campus.

“It has to do with how quickly we can identify the cases,” said Marshall. “I think being from a small campus . . . we can get to the students a lot quicker.”

Students that have been in isolation housing agree with Marshall’s sentiment that the college has been quick with placing students in isolation once they have tested positive.

One student that tested positive said, “I got a call from Maura an hour after my [positive COVID] test. Then she told me I tested positive and she told me to pack my stuff.”

Most students in isolation housing were placed in Collins house, across the street from the college. Students that were in Collins say that they were provided adequate provisions, such as personal protection equipment (hand sanitizer, masks, and disinfectant wipes).

“Those big air loud purifier machines, every floor had one of those. Every floor had hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipe dispensers,” said one student. “Every floor had their own supplies basically.”

Students that were placed in Collins house were given some guidance on what to do in the case of a severe incident. One student recalled a particularly stressful moment in isolation.

“One night, one kid had really bad symptoms, and he was feeling really bad. And we were like, at what point [do we call 911]?” said one student. Students were given guidance in a pamphlet, but unsurprisingly, it was discarded by most students. 

“I’m pretty sure the paper said something, but like you know, in the moment, you’re not gonna like [remember],” they said.

That student has since recovered, but students still say it is unclear why more was not done to inform students about how to respond to medical emergencies while in Collins.

Contact tracing and quarantine for close contacts

The Hilltopper spoke with some students who went out of their own way to request a test out of their own moral responsibility.

“I went out with my friend, and then my friend’s roommate tested positive. So then me and the kid I was with, who hung out with him, went to health services and requested a test.”

Students that do not voluntarily request tests have to be tracked down through contact tracing. The State of New Hampshire leads the contact tracing effort throughout the state, including all colleges in New Hampshire.

“The state is in charge of contact tracing, so as soon as a student tests positive, we have to report that to the state,” said Marshall. “We have to identify close contacts, the state does this, but I help them a little bit . . . A close contact is defined as anyone that you’ve been in contact with less than six feet for more than ten minutes in the last 48 hours.” 

Close contacts are placed in quarantine for 14 days, either in their room or another residence hall. 

“They sent me to Holy Cross and Holy Cross has a pod that’s completely empty that they save for people that are close contacts. I would get tested like every four days,” said one student who was placed in quarantine and later tested positive. 

In this specific instance of quarantine, The Hilltopper was told that close contacts were not completely isolated from each other. 

The close contacts that were placed in Holy Cross had individual rooms, but still shared a kitchen and bathroom, presenting the possibility for transmission among the close contacts if one did carry COVID-19. 

The student that tested positive in Holy Cross said that they were the only one to test positive in that specific quarantine. 

“The rest of the pod, they were getting tested after me, none of them tested positive . . . I was the only one that tested positive. I told them to stay away since I figured I had it,” they said. 

Only slightly harsher policies

After the recent spike in cases, the college has had to clamp down harder on off-campus travel. A little more than a week ago, President Favazza sent a stern letter reminding students to not go off-campus, especially if going to more high-risk areas such as bars. The most notable part of the letter was the announcement that there will now be gatekeepers at all entrances and exits.

“Starting today, gatekeepers will be taking down the names of all students who leave campus and the time of their departure. They also will be time-stamping the time students return to campus,” said Favazza in the letter.

While the letter suggested that gatekeepers will always be present, they are normally only there during the evening on Thursday through Sunday, the days when most off-campus travel happens.

Additionally, the gatekeepers’ exact time schedules have been observed to be inconsistent, sometimes staying until midnight, and other times, leaving their post by 10:00 pm. 

The college has emphasized they want to avoid draconian-like policies to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The gatekeeper’s schedule reflects the college’s hesitance to establish stricter and harsher policies on campus. 

“Little ticking time-bombs”

The semester is ending which means around 2,000 students will be going home for winter break. This is happening as COVID-19 cases are rapidly surging in New Hampshire. Gov. Sununu has estimated that by the end of November, new COVID-19 cases will reach 1,000 per day. Only a small number of colleges and universities are requiring students to test negative for COVID-19 prior to their departure. 

Saint Anselm College is not one of these institutions requiring exit tests. 

The college has also not encouraged students to take exit tests before leaving. The most recent data regarding COVID-19 sent out to students reveals that as of November 12th, 81 students are currently either in quarantine or isolation. 

In an interview from The New York Times, A. David Paltiel, a professor of health policy and management at the Yale School of Public Health, said “there’s a responsibility not to unleash little ticking time bombs.”

Without mandatory exit testing, or even encouraged exit testing, there is a real possibility of students carrying COVID-19 back home. In the most recent COVID-19 health update from Marshall, the college has opted to ask students themselves to plan ahead with their families for when they return home.

In a recent email from Marshall, she told students, “If you foolishly decide to take a risk this weekend, please have a conversation about a plan and arrangements with your family.” 

Meghan Query contributed to this story

Will Saint A’s Look To Tighten Its Belt In The Coming Months?

Liberal arts colleges have been on the defense for years now, with some closing up shop such as Mount Ida college in 2018, as well as Green Mountain College and Southern Vermont College in 2019. The coronavirus crisis has removed students from their dorms and homes, workers from their place of business, and these fragile higher education institutions from the money they desperately need to survive this culling. Saint Anselm College is no different.

Before any further digression, an important note should be made: Saint Anselm College will survive the COVID-19 crisis. A robust history and administration can and will shepherd us through these difficult times, but questions have arose as to whether or not the college will emerge unscathed. Families out of work are having to tighten their belts across the country; it is not absurd to wonder whether an institution dependent on our tuition dollars will have to tighten its belt as well.

For now, the college has expressly stated that the college has no furloughs or layoffs planned, and will be paying all employees as expected through to June 30th. In a letter sent to the Saint Anselm Community, President Favazza detailed some of the impact of the virus that has already befallen the college.

$3.7 million will be returned to students to compensate for remaining room and board costs as well as costs for meal plans. Nearly four million dollars is not a small sum of money to Saint Anselm College (we could have built another Welcome Center with that money, for example). The College’s annual endowment is estimated to be down by 15% this year, and summer programs have been put on hold, with most expecting to be canceled. These programs, combined with various events throughout the year that bring in over $500,000 to the college, have been canceled, meaning that windfall of cash will not reach the college.

Most concerningly, the topic we still have the least amount of information on, along with every other higher education institution in the country, is how will this affect the enrollment of the Class of 2024? As of now, the college actually has higher enrollment than it did this time two years ago, before the record-breaking Class of 2022. The long-lasting residual effects on college enrollment remain yet to be seen.

It is not unlikely that the flow of new enrollments into the college will have an effect on layoffs and furloughs when July arrives. While it is the College’s stated mission to ride out the storm, President Favazza personally commented to the Hilltopper that, “Given all the issues we are facing at this moment, we will have some big financial challenges for next year”.

Although students have had a small say in the academic direction of the college during this time (one vote on a 30+ member committee), the future of the college rests in the hands of the President, the Monastic Community, and the Board of Trustees. Not to say that these institutions don’t have the interests of students in mind, that is their expressed occupation. It is to say, however, that often students know what is best for themselves, and should represent themselves at the highest levels of their decision making. Saint Anselm College doesn’t have this, and the need is more pressing than ever.

Flandreau and Chrisom Victorious in Student Body Elections as Hughes-Ethier Administration Comes to a Close

Voting in the election for 2020 Student Body President and Vice President concluded Tuesday with no candidate securing the majority required to win outright. At 9:53 p.m. on Tuesday, SGA Secretary of Internal Procedure, Spencer Dias, informed the student body of the inconclusive result via email. 

Article V. Section A. of the SGA constitution requires that a runoff election be held “between the two teams with the highest vote totals” in the event that no ticket garners a majority of the total votes cast. 

In the same email, Dias announced on behalf of SGA that this runoff election would result in either Rit Flandreau ‘22 and Kevin Chrisom ‘22, or  Joey Francis ‘21 and Julie Sullivan ‘21 being elected president and vice-president respectively. Finally, Dias wrote that the result would be announced: “by the end of Thursday night.” 

With no numbers provided, the only certain result of the first round of voting is that Gina Gagliardi ‘22 and Madison Hediger ‘22 received fewer total votes than the other two tickets.  

At Wednesday’s Senate meeting, the inconclusive election results overshadowed the last meeting of the Hughes-Ethier administration. Both remaining tickets were in attendance, with Julie Sullivan and Kevin Chrisom there in their official capacity, and Joey Francis and Rit Flandreau in public seating. 

The air cleared quickly, however, as student after student stood up to thank and congratulate President Hughes and Vice President Ethier. Academic Committee Chair Viger gave a moving speech, which concluded with roaring applause. Secretary Murphy, a senior, made an impassioned plea to continuing members. “I hope you don’t just think about your time here, but how you can impact future Anselmians as well,” she said. 

Later, the Senate passed a resolution calling for trash cans in Father Bernard Court without discussion and moved on to discuss ideas for outdoor seating in front of the Student Center. Other than VP Ethier’s announcement, however, that runoff election voting would be moved to the Student Center, discussion of the election was limited. 

When asked to comment on the state of the race at Wednesday’s Senate meeting, presidential candidate Francis said, “We feel optimistic, we feel good about tomorrow.” Vice-presidential candidate Chrisom and presidential candidate Flandreau expressed a similar sentiment, with Flandreau telling The Hilltopper: “It was a very exciting two weeks, very stressful, a couple of sleepless nights…but we’re really excited for what’s to come.” 

At 7:33 p.m. on Thursday night, the Student Government Association’s official email account declared Flandreau and Chrisom victorious in a message to the student body. Upon winning the election, Flandreau told the Hilltopper, “We are here for the students. We have some big shoes to fill, but we are very confident that we can maintain and keep going with this organization. It was a long two weeks, but completely worth it.” Chrisom added, “We’d also like to thank both the Francis and Gagliardi campaigns for running a clean and competitive race, and wish them all the best going forward.”

Change Is Ahead: Favazza Takes Office

It isn’t often that a student body takes a sincerely invested interest in the formation of their school’s administration. Students largely concern themselves with their day-to-day lives: their classes, their social experiences, paying for tuition, et cetera. This isn’t to say that the average student is wholly apathetic towards their school admin, which would be untrue. If you are preoccupied with daily tasks, why concern yourself with someone you rarely see?

As I have been consistently reminded of, Saint Anselm College is not an average college, and does not produce average citizens. Its students are acutely and equally aware of what happens around the world as they are in their own backyard. And, as far as many Saint Anselm students were concerned, their backyard had seen better days.

Mass layoffs. Inadequate housing . Rising costs. Where was the administration last year when we raised our concerns? We still don’t know-the word on the tongues of Saint Anselm students with reference to the previous administration was invisible. Inaccessible. Untransparent. Frustrating. This bevy of words and more were used by students to express a simple reality: President Stephen DiSalvo wasn’t there for us when we needed him. 

This is not an article about the previous administration, but rather, the new one. It’s only fair to know, first, what is new about the new administration. If a lack of transparency and accessibility concerned you last year, as it did this author, have faith in this: change is ahead.

When I reached out to President Favazza to schedule an interview, I expected to wait a few days for a response. Understandably so-the beginning of the year is easily the busiest time of year, especially for a brand new executive. I received my response within 24 hours. This was my first indication that change was on the horizon. 

President Favazza has never been the president of a higher learning institution, but this does not mean he is without administrative experience. He was previously the Provost as well as the Vice President of Academic Affairs at Stonehill College. It was during his oversight that Stonehill undertook the official division of its academic programming into two schools, the May School of Arts and Sciences, and the Meehan School of Business. Before his duties as Provost and VP of Academic Affairs, President Favazza served as Dean of General Education and Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs.

In addition to his experience at Stonehill, Favazza was a Professor of Religious Studies at Rhodes College in Memphis. He also oversaw the “Search For Values” program, which was the core curriculum at Rhodes. 

When I entered the president’s office, he and his executive assistant Janet (who was instrumental in expediting the interview-many thanks to her) were warm and welcoming. Upon entering a closed room, I remember President Favazza’s expression- one of anticipation. This anticipatory gaze wasn’t out of fear, but later manifested itself as eagerness. 

President Favazza is aware of the difficult spot he has filled. I opened by asking him: what do you want to say to the Saint Anselm College community? In giving him the opportunity to take the lead, I saw that President Favazza is not a man on an island. He extolled the virtues of the staff, the administration, and the professors without whom, he said, success would be impossible. 

It is not difficult to seem sageworthy and wise when speaking about those around you, however. I asked what he would do, specifically, to further engage the student body and to do what his predecessor failed to do: be seen by students. He opened with classic examples: attending student sporting events, class events, et cetera, et cetera. One thing he did mention, was a “breakfast with the president” where he would be at Davison Hall once or twice a month and students would be free to sit and chat with him.

That was all good-of course, but Saint Anselm students will not be assuaged by promises and oaths. They demand accountability and action. It is because of this, that I was so pleased to see President Favazza hold a meet and greet in the Intercultural Center this past week. Kudos to you, President Favazza, for holding your word, and holding to it early. 

Our conversation ebbed and flowed, but he was never evasive. He did his best to answer questions squarely, no matter the difficulty of their subject matter. He referenced the perceived antiquity of the monastic community, that some students believe holds back the potential of the school. He retorted with a reminder that Saint Anselm is a bastion of tradition: a tradition that upholds virtues of compassion, service, and sacrifice.

The students of 2019 face unique challenges to those of college students from previous generations. It is not an uncommon feeling amongst this generation that older generations are unsympathetic towards the extra anxiety and stresses we feel as college students in this day and age. I asked President Favazza what he found to be the most difficult challenges facing Saint Anselm College. As opposed to naming a college-specific issue, Favazza was keen to this anxiety, proclaiming the added cost of college to be his first challenge facing Saint Anselm. 

This sensitivity may result from a unique perspective: President Favazza was a first generation college student. When I asked him about how this influenced his approach as president, he responded with a reminder to be compassionate. Not having the same support system as students with parents who went to college was a challenge he experienced. As a result of this, he spoke to the importance of having a strong college advisory infrastructure to assist students who needed it. Such a sympathetic approach might prove to be constructive in this current era of college finance anxiety.

On a personal note, his experience as a first-gen college student gave him what he called a “personal resiliency” that “tried to take advantage of disadvantage”. Such an attitude would be surely welcomed at Saint Anselm. Anselmians don’t get going when the going gets tough. 

It would not have been a fruitful conversation had we not discussed housing. Everyone on this campus knows someone in a forced triple. That should be considered a categorical failure to accommodate for growing class sizes. Thankfully, despite being fresh on the job, the moment I mentioned the word “housing”, President Favazza responded with a nod of understanding. “It’s not ideal to have so many forced triples” was his immediate response. While he was noncommittal to saying that the college would build a new dorm, President Favazza did clearly state that he wanted to look into the potential of building one, as well as wanting to improve on our already existing dorms (as I write this, Saint Mary’s Hall flooded and was without running water for at least one day due to a burst pipe-a repeat of an issue from last winter that displaced three students). 

In conjunction with the discussion surrounding housing, many students have decried the construction of the new welcome center for the department of admissions as misguided, as they feel that the most pressing infrastructure need for the student body is a new residence hall. I asked him about the multi-million dollar project, and received a similar response. While, again, the current housing situation wasn’t “ideal”, the new welcome center was not without merit. “The school needs new students to live on,” he said, further noting that many other schools that Saint Anselm competes with for admissions have their own welcome centers. It will now be a question as to whether or not the new students pulled in by the welcome center will have a place to live on campus. However, once again Favazza couldn’t commit to any upcoming dormitory building projects.

This response didn’t surprise me-most major infrastructure projects undertaken by the college need to get through the Board of Trustees first. The Trustees themselves are a sensitive subject; they operate outside the jurisdiction of the school, and are not held accountable by the student body. They also aren’t held accountable by the professors or deanships. 

What if this were different? What if the most powerful body in the college had a student representative? This idea has been tossed around the Student Government Association for some time now- to no avail (clearly). President Favazza had an interesting take on this situation: at the institutions he previously worked at there was not a permanent student seat on the board of trustees, but there was a temporary seat for a student representative for special meetings and retreats of the board. He expressed an interest in the potential to implement a similar system at Saint Anselm.

President Favazza expressed interest in many things that sounded fantastic. Other than what has already been mentioned, he discussed adding new undergraduate programs, increasing study abroad opportunities, as well as the potentiality of a “J-Term”, a shortened academic term in January that’d give students an opportunity to study a class or two outside of their major requirements. Middlebury College in Vermont employs their J-Term with great success. 

All of that sounds good in theory, but where President Favazza needs to separate himself from his predecessor, is by fulfilling promises, listening to students, and being there for us.

I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to listen to President Favazza. I sincerely hope it won’t be the last time the two of us sit together. I also sincerely hope that now that I’ve taken the time to listen to him, he will take the time to listen to us.

Faculty Claim Violations of Title IX

Our very own Women’s basketball team has just made history for Saint Anselm College, claiming their first ever East Regional title. After being seeded seventh in the team’s first shot in the Elite Eight, upsets to three teams brought the Hawks to the gold. Their final record was an impressive 22-10. This is not the only East Regional title Saint Anselm College has earned this year, as a few weeks earlier our Men’s basketball team brought home the same title. Their season ended with a record of 25-5.  

Though both teams earned the same title, they did not earn the same recognition. After their East Regional wins, both the men and women’s teams traveled to compete for a national title. Both fell short, and the season came to a close. On the way back to campus after the conclusion of their seasons, the two teams had very different experiences. The men’s basketball team took a private flight back to the Manchester airport and were welcomed back to campus with a police escort. The women’s basketball team flew commercial and had no escort back to campus. The difference did not go unnoticed by the student body. “I mean it is true that they made it one game further than us, but we were making history too…I felt disregarded…” said Jenoyce Laiyan, a sophomore on the women’s team. “But, I would like to say I am proud of the guy’s team for making it that far!”

The situation was referred to by a staff member as a “complete lack of acknowledgment of the success of Women’s Basketball…”. Questions and concerns were raised by staff and community members to athletics, senior administration, and communications, all to be left unanswered. A petition was quickly presented to the community by Professor Brian Penney.  The petition was created in hopes that it would “…get the administration to acknowledge the discrepancy in treatment and to provide a proper chance for the community to officially welcome the women’s basketball team.”

The petition being circulated by Professor Brian Penney had been placed on hold as of Thursday afternoon as new information has brought some light to the subject. This is still an issue, as there have been no announcements from administrators as to when or if an event will be scheduled; however, Professor Penney conveyed to The Hilltopper that he had been in contact with Saint Anselm’s NCAA Compliance Director, Courtney McGrath and she provided more information.

After a tournament game has concluded the NCAA flies players out as soon as possible, and options for flights are based on location and availability. In the case of the men’s team, the NCAA scheduled a private plane back to Manchester. The women’s team was scheduled a commercial flight into Boston. Professor Penney said that in either case “The NCAA pays for and arranges for this; it is not the choice of the school.” He also said that scheduling a police escort “is easy to set up if a team arrives in Manchester, but not if they arrive in Boston as the women did.”

Although some concerns were clarified and resolved the issue of providing an adequate reception still stands. Some students and faculty are still upset by the lack of recognition for our women’s basketball team once back on campus, and some questions remain unanswered. New information presented Friday morning led to a renewed effort. After being told that the athletics administration has still not committed to holding an event faculty members are demanding action. These demands include:

  • Acknowledgment of the unfairness of treatment with a campus-wide e-mail for the men;
  • And an alternate, well-advertised event for the campus to celebrate women’s basketball

Additionally, the petition states that this inaction is “a violation of the Title IX provisions for equal publicity for women’s teams.” There has yet to be any response from administrators, but this does not mean that students and faculty can not help resolve the issue. As said by Professor Penney “We are a strong community and the goal is to properly celebrate our athletes who worked so hard and had a fantastic season. None of this should reflect on the men’s team, who had their own fantastic season, deserved a celebration, and were not part of any of these decisions.” As individuals and as a community we can celebrate all of our athletes by congratulating them on their success this season.

The Hilltopper, and Professor Penney reached out to Athletic Director Daron Montgomery and Director of Communications and Marketing Michelle Adams O’Reagan. They have yet to comment.

This article was researched and written with assistance from Kate Shubert.