Student residents returned to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock last semester, sporting sweat from the Arkansas Summer heat and the masks covering their noses and mouths. A mask mandate is one safety precaution in place to keep students on campus safe. Residents pulled in carrying suitcases in one hand and a green thumb in the other. Now in January, students are still carrying green thumbs on their mobile devices.
The UA Little Rock Return to Campus Guide for Students states “Complete the Trojan COVID-19 Screening Tool every time you are coming to campus” as the first step to returning to campus, as well as a mask mandate and social distancing guidelines.
UA Little Rock formulated a screening tool where individuals answered a set of three questions to determine whether or not they should come to campus. The screening tool will either produce a green thumbs-up or a red thumbs-down with more information about what actions the individual should take. Red thumbs mean that the user should not return to campus until they could produce a green thumb response from the screening tool.
If a user receives a green thumb the webpage reads: “please show this green symbol when entering any area on campus with signage asking for it to be shown, and upon request. We appreciate your participation to keep our campus safe.”
Many students considered the focus on the screening tool to mean that it would be an integrated part of daily life. However, most students found that they had only been asked to take it or provide a green thumb a handful of times. Gage Taylor, a junior student resident and a student worker on campus, said he expected the green thumb to be presented often.
“I expected to be asked [to have it] at the entrance of any major building. Like the library, the cafeteria, the DSC,” Taylor said. “These are essential areas of student life. Many students have to travel through these places to get food or sit in-between classes.”
He did not have in-person classes this semester or last semester, but when working or eating on campus he never was asked about his green thumb or to show the screening tool.
However, the screening tool is being utilized in some unexpected areas on campus. Kaitlynn Mitchell was a student working for UA Little Rock last semester in the theatre building. Mitchell said her roles were “to make sure everyone had a green screen and was wearing a mask. I also made sure all PPE [Personal Protective Equipment] was stocked throughout the building.” She said many students had their green thumbs ready and that those who didn’t would fill out the survey outside the doors.
As a student, she was only ever asked to present a green COVID-19 screening when entering the theatre building. Mitchell felt that the screening tool was effective in giving the university a count of COVID but felt that she it is not doing any good to the university because of how easy it is to lie on the screening.
Sharon Downs, assistant vice chancellor, commented that “the screening was developed to reduce the number of persons with ILI [influenza-like illness] coming to campus in order to reduce the spread of the virus,” and that she did not have a sense for how often it was used for that purpose.
While students expected to interact with the screening tool frequently, it is rarely used on campus. Mainly, students should use the tool to evaluate their own symptoms and make an educated decision before attending campus.