Editorial: Welcome back, Roger William University

Posted 8/20/20

The return of semi-normal life to Roger Williams University will understandably trigger anxieties for many Bristol residents in the era of Covid-19. Across society there are numerous classifications …

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Editorial: Welcome back, Roger William University

Posted

The return of semi-normal life to Roger Williams University will understandably trigger anxieties for many Bristol residents in the era of Covid-19. Across society there are numerous classifications of people, ranging from those who loosely follow the rules about group gatherings and mask protocols, to those who are hyper-vigilant, making sure their neighbors and anyone they see adheres to every government and health mandate.

This latter group won’t love the sight of those college kids running around town doing … well, what college kids do.

However, most should welcome the return of Roger Williams to in-person learning.

The university community includes more than 5,000 people, including students and faculty. Some live in this community year-round, but the vast majority are visitors who support the local economy. They rent apartments, order takeout food, visit the grocery store, get their morning coffee, cut their hair, service their cars, even attend church, in this community. The economic losses as they all packed up and went home last spring, or at the very least mostly sheltered at home, are staggering.

Like it or not, these college kids from Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and so many other places, represent an economic engine that many Bristol businesses depend on.

Similarly, the university’s faculty and staff are integral to a healthy local economy. Those hundreds of jobs support households and the property taxes, income taxes and sales taxes that keep the schools running and the first-responders operating at full capacity.

Most universities do not have an endowment like Harvard, and they will not survive forever if they cannot welcome students to campus and offer a quality experience (under whatever circumstances they face). Roger Williams knows this, so it built a robust reopening plan that includes millions of dollars invested in safety measures, campus upgrades and weekly testing for everyone.

There will be college parties. There will be “kids” who aren’t socially distant at all times. And those who blatantly violate rules should be sanctioned and dealt with.

But in the whole, the university is a vital member of this community, and its return is good news for Bristol.

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Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.