SRJC strongly recommends study abroad students self-quarantine


Courtesy of Riley Palmer

This is the last group picture taken of the fateful Spring 2020 Florence program. Given all that has happened, it is a trip that none of them are soon to forget.

Santa Rosa Junior College informed students and faculty about to return home from the terminated study abroad program in Florence, Italy, that they would be prohibited from returning to campus for two weeks and expected to self-isolate during that time.

Robert Ethington, dean of students, sent an email Wednesday night to students in Florence, t saying it is “strongly recommended that students returning from Italy self-isolate at home for two weeks to reduce the potential spread of the virus. Students will not be permitted on campus during this period.”

Ethington and other members on the college leadership team took the decision seriously and have been actively monitoring the situation in Italy, in addition to the situation developing in Sonoma County. 

“Containing the spread of a contagious disease presents difficult challenges to a community college,” he said.

The news of quarantine devastated SRJC students and faculty in Florence. Professor Jeanette Ben Farhat wrote a scathing email to Robert Ethington.

“[The students in Italy] need support at this time, not just a letter telling them to stay away from campus,” she said.

The students in Florence were even more stalwart.

“I think that no one is going to self-isolate. Even if they do, coronavirus is going to continue to spread,” said SRJC student Allison Khadoo. “It’s good [SRJC] is being proactive, but at the end of the day coronavirus ruined study abroad even though it’s not going to kill any of us.”

Other students agreed.

“If I’m not sick, it’s ridiculous. But I also don’t want to be a carrier, if we are going to be in an airplane for 12 hours,” said SRJC student Vienna Throngrasmy.

SRJC student Djuna Barricklow had lots to say.

“That is a ridiculous and offensive email to receive at this point,” she said. “No one has coronavirus, and the fact that the JC is making such a big deal about it, after a gross overreaction in bringing us home in the first place, is like a kick to the face when we’re already down.” 

SRJC student Riley Palmer doubts the efficacy of self-isolation.

“If I was infected, it’s not like that would be contained in the airport or through the drive home. It’s not like it will be isolated from my parents and brother,” she said. “We live in a very small space. Does the JC even care about the families of those of us living at home?”

Palmer does not plan to self-isolate at this time.

“There’s no way hiding in my room will contain the spread in any meaningful way. The cat is out of the bag,” she said. “I’m tired of the circus this has become. It feels like insult to injury.”

As coronavirus spreads across the globe, more and more formerly unthinkable events are becoming the new normal.

Asked what event would precipitate SRJC campus closures, Ethington said, “We just don’t know.”