Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

Cut to the chase with COVID communication

The following reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board. 

The university’s approach to COVID-19 communication feels disconnected, and it shows. 

The disconnect seems to begin with the university’s Crisis Management Team (CMT), which was mentioned in Miami University President Greg Crawford’s email to the student body on May 9, when Ohio first reached a state of emergency. 

Since then, we’ve all received email “updates” from the CMT, with no real clue who they are or what the purpose of their emails is.

Here’s what we do know about them: They enjoy sugar-coating things, they don’t like to give us bad news and they’re not connoisseurs of context or clarity. 

We understand that information on the pandemic is hard to follow and can be uncertain, but we want more emphasis on the hard facts and numbers that are actually known.

The university has been intentionally not including data in their emails, has messed up the dates on the COVID-19 dashboard and has indicated it has a tighter grip of control on COVID-19 than it actually seems to.

Adding to the confusion, emails aren’t even the only stream of communication being used — the university has been using its social media outlets to relay information about the spread of the virus within our community. 

This is not effective. It’s pretty safe to assume that students aren’t exactly refreshing Twitter in hopes of a new tweet from their school every day. 

This mix of platforms is ironically consistent with the administration’s lack of consistency. One day, we get an email that we’re doing well. The next, the email is reminding us with alarming urgency once again to wear masks, wash our hands and socially distance, leaving us wondering if things are worse than they seem, especially without an explanation of data

Miami cases make up around 30% of positives in Butler County. Why is the severity of the impact coming straight from our school not being communicated directly to us?

Sure, they don't want to be all negative all the time. But, how are all good things and rainbows any better?

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Halloween is coming up, and we know that if people go out and contract the virus over the weekend, the incubation period will line up perfectly enough for people to get it just in time for Thanksgiving. This means you will either have to stay here and isolate, go home and unknowingly pass it onto family members or be one of the lucky ones who avoids it all together. 

Knowledge is power. But have we received an email telling us any of this? No — no, we haven’t, yet. 

Yes, in the past, we have pushed the school for more frequent communication on COVID-19. But now it’s time for the next step. Quantity means nothing without quality, especially in a pandemic. 

The CMT needs to start working smarter, not harder. 

Look, one of the reasons we opened back up in the first place is because all of the other Ohio colleges were following Ohio State’s lead in doing so. If the administration wants to prove Miami is on par with them, then our stream of information should be as well. 

Miami students, parents, faculty and staff deserve access to understandable information and timely updates. Why not make the COVID dashboard graph interactive and provide data from more than a week ago? We, at The Student, have to do math every week to figure out percentages and statistics that are relevant to our readers — the average dashboard visitor likely isn’t taking the time to do so, leaving them with little useful information. 

There’s no excuse to not be on top of it. This is not a budget issue — it’s just a matter of allocating time and effort in the right places, and using the talents of the people at Miami who know how to present data effectively. 

We don’t need updates from Twitter; the emails will work just fine as long as they’re clear, concise, contextualized and, most importantly, correct. 

Basically, give it to us straight.

If it’s bad, let us know — we’re adults, we can handle it. If we’re doing better, then that’s great, but don’t bury the old numbers in the dashboard. 

Since the pandemic began in March, there’ve been plenty of situations that have elicited feelings of uncertainty and confusion.

Reading a university communication email doesn’t need to be one of them.