As Belmont University prepares for Thursday’s final presidential debate, students are conflicted over the school’s decision to host the event amid the coronavirus pandemic.
But it’s not the school administration that students have a problem with, it’s the Trump campaign’s disregard for face masks and other health and safety measures.
Students are confident in Belmont’s handling of the coronavirus and, for the most part, support the college’s “strict” COVID-19 protocol.
“Students are thinking, ‘is it hypocritical that we’re hosting [the debate] if we’re being so strict on campus, yet we’re allowing members of the Trump administration on campus?’,” Belmont junior Caroline Bugg told Newsweek.
“I think there’s a lot of students who are just frustrated—we can’t even have our mom come and stay with us or visitors come, yet both of these administrations are coming on campus and are just allowed to be here,” she added.
Under Belmont’s “Staying Healthy Together Pledge,” students are required to wear masks at all times on campus, both indoors and outdoors, to maintain social distance and undergo COVID-19 screening and testing.
Due to the outbreaks on other college campuses across the country, Belmont added a new protocol at the end of August prohibiting students from organizing, hosting, promoting, or attending large on or off-campus gatherings.
Students lost their Fall break so that the semester could be condensed and completed in time for Thanksgiving. And all these measures have worked.
Since reopening in mid-August, Belmont has reported only 82 student cases of COVID-19. Of the roughly 2,800 students enrolled at the private Christian university, only one percent of the student population has been infected.
There have also been an additional eight coronavirus cases among faculty and staff.
These figures come in stark opposition from those reported in Nashville, where Belmont is located, and the rest of Tennessee, which is undergoing a massive spike in hospitalizations related to the novel coronavirus.
On Tuesday, Tennessee’s COVID-19 hospitalizations reached an all-time high when the state’s department of health announced there were 1,259 patients hospitalized for their infections. In Nashville, health officials announced 441 new cases on Tuesday after reporting 276 new cases the day before.
Belmont, however, has managed to inoculate itself both as a college campus and in downtown Nashville, two factors that should have propelled the university into hotspot status.
But students are worried the debate and those attending it will burst their bubble.
“It would be a shame if this is what brought us down because we’ve been doing pretty good so far,” Belmont junior Wade Evans told Newsweek.
Evans said the college has worked tirelessly to enforce its safety protocols but the willingness of students to follow those protocols may not match those of the two presidential campaigns setting foot on campus Thursday.
“The students are all really good about wearing their masks and