To Cover College Quarantines, We Turned to the Best Sources: Student Journalists

Haley Johnson at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., the smallest school in our mix, wrote about the “snitch form” that allowed students to rat one another out for not following the rules. Priya Jandu described the crowds she saw overflowing from Gentle Ben’s Brewing and Illegal Pete’s, two University of Arizona institutions — hard to tell there was a quarantine in place there.

And Addison Lathers provided a vivid description of the night the hammer came down at the University of Wisconsin, and the panic that ensued at two dormitories that each held more than 1,000 students about to be locked down for two weeks.

Needless to say, the experiences these journalists described were not what most college students dreamed of when perusing admissions brochures.

“I don’t know a single healthy person who remained in quarantine” as required, reported Anna Haynes, the editor in chief of the CU Independent at the University of Colorado, Boulder. That was especially true, she said, in the neighborhood known as University Hill — or to those around town, just “the Hill” — which remained an unrepentant hot spot in more ways than one.

“It’s the place you go to party,” Ms. Haynes wrote, “pandemic or not.”

Some readers were impressed with the inside look on these campuses, and the young reporters who provided it.

“I love that @nytimes turned to student journalists for this,” tweeted Sara Weissman, a staff writer at Diverse: Issues in Higher Education. “Campus newspapers are underappreciated, and they’re a huge resource right now.”

Indeed they are. In some parts of the country, as local journalism has withered, college publications have had to step in to fill the void. And many campus journalists have done a terrific job holding their administrators and peers accountable during the pandemic. The Times is continuing to look for ways to tap into their expertise and collaborate with them.

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