Give Us Back Pre-COVID OneCard Access

Columnist Zachary Robinson ’20’s piece on Swarthmore’s COVID-19 plan last week pointed out Swarthmore’s persistent, restrictive OneCard policy that bars students from entering dorms in which they do not live and buildings that were previously accessible 24/7 like Sci and Parrish. The policy even prevents The Phoenix Editorial Board from accessing our own office 24/7. What was once an implicitly temporary policy implemented in the 2020-2021 COVID-19 school year has now been extended indefinitely. There is no clarity on what societal conditions are necessary such that the draconian policy is retracted. 

Universal OneCard access is crucial for the type of social, open, and welcoming campus that Swarthmore should strive to be. Students should have access to the full breadth of facilities and student life available to them regardless of their departmental affiliation or housing-portal lottery outcome. Limiting student movement to their designated academic and residential zones reinforces the notion of students existing within Swarthmore to fulfill their limited and specific function. Swarthmore students should not feel as though they are meant to and can only learn through their classrooms and academic environments. Learning most definitely extends to social interactions students have in Science Center Commons, Parrish, and the dormitory spaces. Swarthmore College, in its essence, is an entity that manifests itself through its community members — we make up the college and we make up the college experience. By barring us from each other, the college is holding back a large portion of the experience we expected to receive since the day we accepted to matriculate. 

The COVID-19 concern about student transmission of the virus as a result of universal One Card access, while compelling in the 2020-2021 school year, is clearly less pertinent in a school year with unlimited student access to common buildings like Science Center, Singer Hall, and the mask-off zones of Sharples and Essie’s. Students are already congregating in classrooms and dining zones, and stopping a Wharton resident from entering Willets just defers their close social interactions to other, more crowded locations. Moreover, shutting off 24/7 access only increases the possibility of unsafe situations for students who are out late at night and could need a safe, warm, well-lit space for any reason. Shutting off 24/7 access to The Phoenix’s office does not make any sense since we regularly use our office past midnight, the closing hour, to provide an essential public good for the college. We are effectively trapped in the office to get our weekly print paper out on time. Working around restricted OneCard access is a universal impediment that benefits nobody, and deprives Swarthmore students of their essential freedom of mobility. While we sympathize with the intention behind COVID-19 concern and their corresponding policies, a return to Swarthmore’s pre-COVID Universal OneCard access is not a public health risk, and crucial to the Swarthmore experience.

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