OPINION: Is WKU doing all it can to protect students from COVID-19?


WKU students can go to the Graves Gilbert Clinic on campus to receive free COVID-19 testing on campus.

Price Wilborn, Commentary writer

On Aug. 4, 2021, the WKU community was surprised when President Timothy Caboni announced that the university would once again require face masks to be worn by anyone inside any of the buildings on campus. What was looking to be a normal year had been brought yet another change caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Now, almost a month after the new mask requirement went into effect, the delta variant is causing numbers on campus, in Bowling Green and across the state to rise. These rising numbers in all aspects of society beg the question: is WKU doing enough to combat the pandemic?

WKU has reported 257 positive cases of COVID-19 since August 12, 2021. Of these cases, 231 have been students, while 26 have been faculty and staff members, as well as on-campus contractors.

Let’s face it: some students haven’t been wearing their masks and taking the proper precautions that they should. In class and around campus, students are constantly being told to “put your mask on” and “cover up your nose,” something they’ve heard nonstop for a year.

On top of this, the large gatherings from M.A.S.T.E.R. Plan events could have raised the numbers. TopperFest could raise the numbers, too. So could have the various university-sponsored and social events that have taken place just in the past couple weeks.

We are still yet to see the full effects of COVID-19 due to the beginning of the semester. Following M.A.S.T.E.R. Plan, Sorority Recruitment, Fraternity Rush, and all the other events that have already taken place, the numbers could take a turn for the worse. 

At the same time, however, they may not. A large portion of the student body, as well as the faculty, has received their COVID-19 vaccine. The university has asked students and staff to report their vaccination status in order to help with contact tracing. 92% of those that have reported their vaccination status to the university have been vaccinated.

The vaccine incentive contest that has been coupled with the reporting is an easy way for the university to gain the numbers they desire, as well as encourage those that have not been vaccinated to do so as soon as possible. Having a reason to get vaccinated aside from being told to do so will increase the number of students who receive their shot. This will only lessen the spread of the virus even more and allow the campus to get back to a normal environment.

With students back on campus and with learning in full effect, will these numbers begin to rise at even greater rates? Only time will tell. In following CDC guidance, however, the university is doing exactly what is expected. 

The delta variant is here, and it is becoming apparent, much like it was in March of last year, that something must be done about it. Masks and vaccines are the strongest tools we have to combat the virus. 

The requirement of masks is the best way for the university to help fight the virus. We saw that in the summer of 2020, after Governor Beshear introduced a statewide mask mandate, the infection rate did go down.

The requirement by the university for all students and staff to report COVID-19 exposure and positive tests is also one of the easiest, most effective ways the virus can be fought. Keeping track of the state of the virus on campus is the most important part to keeping it contained. 

The actions taken by the university are allowing students to once again get involved in the campus community, something that WKU has always prided itself on. It was these activities and the sense of home on campus that drew me to come to Bowling Green and attend WKU. Now that I’m here, I’ve been able to get involved in a way that I wasn’t sure I would be able to even a year ago. 

Working to recreate the sense of community and the sense of home on campus, at these (hopefully) later stages in the pandemic, is one of the most important things that the university can be doing right now. 

The world will have to return to some kind of normal sooner rather than later, and for college students that are spending most of their time on campus, they need that sense of normal now more than ever. 

After a year full of uncertainty, and going into one with somewhat less, the university is doing the best they can to bring back what they need to bring back while working around the clock to ensure the safety of all students in the most non-intrusive way they can. 

This year is once again filled with uncertainty as the COVID-19 pandemic once again casts a shadow of doubt over the university’s activities. The brunt of the responsibility now lies on the shoulders of the students. Wearing your masks, reporting your exposures and positive tests, and following any other CDC and university guidelines are the most effective and easiest ways to be the best member of the WKU community you can be. The sooner we all fully commit to doing these things, the sooner we can be reminded of what the university can be. So please, mask up and do your part, and we can all go back to not only making the absolute best of our individual college experiences, but also help to make campus the best that it can possibly be. 

Commentary writer Price Wilborn can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @pricewilborn.