Humboldt State Homeward Bound buses make a pit stop in Lebec, California en route to Arcata on March 17, 2018. | File photo by Luis Lopez

Students Bused Back to HSU Met with Mixed Messages

Locals react to HSU students bused back to Humboldt from coronavirus-afflicted areas

Locals react to HSU students bused back to Humboldt from coronavirus-afflicted areas

A bus chartered by the Humboldt State Homeward Bound program picked up 31 HSU students March 21 from San Francisco and Los Angeles—two cities where the coronavirus has become more and more prominent—and brought the students back to Humboldt.

Lost Coast Outpost posted an article about the bus March 24. The Facebook post for the story has 433 comments as of March 29, many of which are critical of HSU.

“This is beyond irresponsible of HSU,” one comment reads.

“And one more reason we feel GREAT about not sending our kids to HSU,” reads another.

Sarah Ray, an environmental studies professor, defended the students.

“Quite a few of our students live here and have moved here and have their lives here and they were visiting family,” Ray said. “So, just like we would expect and hope that kids and students who are from Arcata and the area—we would fully respect and appreciate that they would want to come home and be home with their families once their classes got cancelled in this really frightening moment—it’s reasonable that students would want to go where they’re most comfortable and feel at home.”

She went on:

“There’s also a lot of research out there about how many students across the nation going through this exact problem are not safe at home, and this might be a safer place for them,” Ray said.

“I feel like it’s not a simple solution to just say, ‘Go back there,’ because many of these students live here.”

Xochitl Andrade, HSU English and biology major

Grant Scott-Goforth, communications specialist for HSU, explained the precautions implemented on the buses returning to HSU.

“The buses were partially full so that people could have social distancing on the buses while they rode,” Scott-Goforth said. “And then, obviously when they return, we’re asking everyone to shelter-in-place, to quarantine if you’ve been exposed or been to an area with exposure, and to contact the Student Health Center or hospitals with concerns about health.”

As much as HSU wished it could’ve been in command over which students came and which students left Humboldt, there was no way to do that. Of course, as Scott-Goforth asserted, the coronavirus situation is nothing to sneeze at.

“I think it’s terribly unfortunate and I’m very sad for them and I feel very protective of students because it’s what I do.”

Sarah Ray, HSU environmental studies professor

Xochitl Andrade, an HSU senior majoring in English and biology, said the situation is complicated.

“I feel like it’s not a simple solution to just say, ‘Go back there,’ because many of these students live here,” Andrade said. “They may have no where else to go if they were told to go back. We don’t know if they were just visiting friends or family. And for those who don’t have any family to go back to, what are they supposed to do?”

While Andrade agrees that the students should be quarantined, she said she thought HSU knows what it’s doing.

Ray hoped the harsh words toward HSU students from the Lost Coast Outpost article weren’t representative of the Arcata community.

“I think it’s terribly unfortunate and I’m very sad for them and I feel very protective of students because it’s what I do,” Ray said. “I would like to think that it’s only an extreme, fringed, vocal, internet types of social media people who are saying those kinds of things. The vast majority of the university, especially the community and many people in the community—that’s not the kind of sentiment I see.”

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