GV Data Dashboard sets solid example, but others lag behind the standard


Courtesy/ Meghan Landgren

Students of Michigan State University got news that felt inevitable Saturday afternoon, as they have been advised by the university to self-quarantine after an outbreak of 342 new COVID cases attributed to parties on and off campus.The change in policy is reflective of a growing number of cases at nearly all open Michigan public universities.

Grand Valley State University is no stranger to criticism here, with the University coming under fire when it claimed the title of public university with the most confirmed, reported cases in the state. 

Shortly after criticism and calls for GVSU to move fully online, the University issued an email to all students that encouraged them to look closer at the data, highlighting GVSU’s liberal reporting. This sentiment was further shared with the Lanthorn during our meeting with President Philomena Mantella Wednesday, Sept. 9.

“I’m not speaking to any specific institution…, but many institutions are only reporting their on-campus cases,” Mantella said to the Lanthorn on Wednesday. “Many institutions are doing their positivity rate with the whole population, not the tested population. I don’t think there is a single institution that is reporting beyond their on and off-campus cases.”

The efforts the University is going through to accurately report and share the spread of COVID-19 on, near and off-campus is admirable, and quite frankly should set the standard for university reporting, especially in Michigan. GVSU and its leadership deserve kudos for that transparency.

However, transparency does not scamper around the fact that nearly 500 community members have gotten COVID-19. It does not ignore the fact that there are metrics that put GVSU in the red and raise concern for how campus health will change moving forward. It also does not set clear guidelines or acknowledge concern benchmarks for various tracked metrics so spectators can follow leadership’s thought process. 

There are still concerns and hurdles to tackle as a university community, but a strong Data Dashboard is the first step.

What it does do is hold conversations, which are critical for ensuring community concerns do not go unnoticed or unjustified. But this type of public data creates an accountability culture that is absolutely crucial during unprecedented times, and other universities should take notes as to how to keep their populations updated with the most accurate information.

Releasing all this in-depth data should not be celebrated — it should be the standard. We should not be overly-praising GVSU’s Virus Action Team for doing what should be the baseline for virus reporting. On the contrary, we should be imploring universities around the state to meet that standard.

While GVSU’s reporting — despite criticism — should be the standard, it is directly where the bar should be set to ensure the right decisions are being made. This comprehensive reporting should be right where it is across the state — no less.