A failed survey

Why and how Hamline’s COVID-19 survey failed students

Emily Brown, Senior Columnist

This spring and summer, Hamline sent out a survey asking students if they wanted to have classes online or on campus. The email asked students a variety of questions that were super valuable and I admire the administration for taking the students’ preference and perspective into account, but I do have a few problems with these surveys.


I want to start with what I liked. The survey was the idea of former HUSC president and current Oracle columnist, Andrew P Weston, who wanted students’ voices to be heard during a very different and scary time at Hamline. We were forced to go into lockdown almost instantly. When I went into the house the Friday afternoon before spring break, I had no idea what was on the road ahead. As young people, our voices often get silenced by the older people around us, especially when our lives and our futures are at stake. When everything is spinning out of control, we want something to grab onto and control.


But, when it comes to an emergency situation such as a global pandemic, someone has to step up and take the lead. I make it no secret that I have not been happy with Hamline’s response to COVID-19. Hamline has dropped the ball every step of the way and the survey was one of the many missteps.


When making decisions for a group, you normally want their voices heard, but nothing about this is normal. We are in a global pandemic, thousands of people are sick or dead and the number of cases are spiking. The question as to whether or not to open campus should be a no brainer.  


Instead, it was a heavily debated topic that went back and forth the entire summer. Students’ inboxes were flooded with mixed messages that were confusing and that personally angered me. To some degree, I understand. There was one point in the summer when we got a hint of COVID-19 letting up and the world going back to normal. I was even debating whether or not I could go back to work.

Leo Coughenour


We were given an inch and we took every mile on the table. Malls reopened, fewer people were socially distancing and when people became much more relaxed, Hamline followed suit. In July 2020, President Miller sent out an email saying that campus would reopen and all classes would be in person.


I think it is vastly unfair to put the pressure of whether or not we should open up the campus on students’ shoulders. That is not our job. Our job is to go to classes and learn. Students are in the middle of a battle and we rely on the administration to have a full overview of everything so they can make the best decisions for us.


I do not know how much Hamline has taken students’ answers into account when deciding to open up the school, but it doesn’t really matter because each student’s needs are different when it comes to the pandemic.


Some students live in toxic or unstable homes and rely on campus for a safe and warm place to stay. Some students have family members that are high risk, who might either need them at home or out of the house completely. Some students have very hands-on classes with supplies that are only available on campus. And then there are some students who are high risk, like myself, who can’t come on campus.


If Hamline’s leadership wanted to hear from their students, they should’ve done something much more personal. If this were to happen again, I would suggest that advisors have one-on-one meetings with the students and make an individual plan with them along with the survey to get an overview picture.


Hamline’s main concern should be keeping everyone safe throughout the pandemic. When push comes to shove, some executive decisions have to be made. I want to be on campus, but my health and safety come first and I really wanted to see some support from the administration.