Still in the grasp of the pandemic, the University of Miami started the Fall 2020 semester with several COVID guidelines, including requiring students, faculty and staff to use Cane Cards to access buildings on the Coral Gables campus.
The policy, which remained in effect during Spring 2021 semester, is still in place this fall but with fewer restrictions. Cane Cards are no longer required to enter “more publicly available spaces,” including Richter Library, Shalala Student Center and the Whitten University Center.
But some are questioning whether the Cane Card access policy, touted as a measure that “safeguards the health of the community,” is needed now that a majority of students, faculty and staff have the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I don’t understand how having access to a building will restrict the spread of COVID-19,” said Elena Ruiz, a senior chemistry major. “I feel like it’s a safety measure that is not necessary. I think it makes our lives very difficult, especially when we forget or lose a Cane Card, then we’re locked out of many buildings for no reason.”
Though accessing classroom and campus buildings can be frustrating, Ruiz said students find other ways to get access.
“If you don’t have your Cane Card to open up a building, you can text a friend or someone can open the door for you,” Ruiz said.
On any given classroom day, wastepaper baskets and other objects can be seen propping open doors prior to the start of class.
Ocean sciences professor William Drennan say the access protocol does contribute to a healthy campus.
“I think it certainly helps with stopping the spread,” Drennan said. “You don’t want random people to access buildings if they’re not masked and not vaccinated outside of class hours. I think as long as there is the potential for exposure to happen, even without contact tracing, I feel it’s a good idea.”
Drennan says RSMAS employees needed their identification cards to enter buildings on the marine campus before the COVID-19 pandemic started.
“We’ve had it at RSMAS actually for a long time before this,” Drennan said. “So, it’s a little bit of a different culture. I think it’s certainly been useful to have during the pandemic.”
On the medical campus, university community members are required to have their Cane Cards displayed on their person while present on the campus.
Freshman football player Chris Washington, a sports administration major, welcomes fewer access restrictions but prefers the return to full access.
“It’s always in the back of my mind, second-guessing if I can get into this classroom or not,” Washington said. “I don’t think there’s any reason to really have the need to swipe into classrooms other than for protection reasons for students.”
Student Government President Landon Coles concedes that the access policy may not prevent the spread of the virus but said the policy is important for a safe campus.
“It serves as a wise and valiant measure to combat against external members to the university community entering on-campus facilities,” Coles said. “Preventing those who are not members of the university community from entering on-campus facilities is an additional deterrent to any harmful actors.”
The Faculty Senate Office, reached for comment on the Cane Card access policy, said the senate is not yet in agreement as to whether the Cane Card access policy should become permanent, said Faculty Senate Robyn Hardeman.