Coronavirus Exposure Sends University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) into Chaos, Emails Show

Coronavirus Exposure Sends University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) into Chaos, Emails Show

When the email ordering them into quarantine on Tuesday night began pinging phones up and down the 10th floor of Martin, a freshman dorm at the University of Mississippi, some of the women who lived there were just getting into their beds. 

They didn’t stay in them for long. Three students on the hall had tested positive for coronavirus. The email said the other residents of those halls would need to be out of their dorms and in quarantine by the next day.

“It was insane. Everyone at the same time, rushing out of their rooms, panicking and screaming,” said an Ole Miss freshman in Martin who spoke under the condition of anonymity because she did not want to publicly criticize the school in the middle of sorority rush

Although the COVID-19 addendum to the housing contracts they’d signed that summer had included the option for students to quarantine in campus housing, some students interpreted that email as telling them to find their own housing for the next 14 days. “It is important you consult with your family to consider your options for quarantine,” the letter said. 

“Lots of girls [were] crying because they had nowhere to go. I was up till 3 a.m. packing my car because I didn’t know when I would have to leave,” the student added.

The impression was reinforced when students got through to student housing the next morning, and they were urged to return home to their families or move off-campus. Remaining in a quarantine site on campus was listed as another option, but conversations with students and faculty suggest that they felt pressured to get out.

“They definitely advised us to go home,” the freshman in Martin told The Daily Beast.

An email sent the next morning, and obtained by The Daily Beast, backed up the students’ interpretation. As the third day of classes got underway on Wednesday, James M. Thomas, an associate professor of sociology, fired off an email to the university’s top officials, including chancellor Glenn Boyce. Thomas said several students told him that campus housing, when they finally got through to the office, had urged them to either move off-campus or return to their families. 

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