Emerson students frustrated by mandated at-home rapid tests

Take-home+rapid+test+provided+by+Emerson+College.

Photo: Emily McNally

Take-home rapid test provided by Emerson College.

By Frankie Rowley and Adri Pray

Emerson students reported experiencing difficulties after taking their college-mandated and provided at-home rapid COVID-19 tests in order to return to campus following the Thanksgiving break. 

The college distributed BINAX Now at-home rapid tests to students prior to the break, requiring that they take the tests within 48 hours of returning to campus. Some students, though, felt there was little instruction provided on how the test should be administered. 

“There should have been a separate set of instructions that they gave to us specifically—not the ones that were just on the box,” said Caroline Lagrangeira, a first-year political communications major. “I did miss a couple of things about how to get the website and the app, and it was just very complex for me.”

Students who opened their tests prematurely were forced to procure a new rapid test, since opening their box prior to a virtual proctor’s instruction nullified their test.

“I opened the box assuming there would be an instruction pamphlet in there,” said Lucinda Bertolet, a junior theater and performance major. “I didn’t open any of the testing materials. Then I found out from the [Navica] app that you had to get a proctor. I showed them my box and I had the unfortunate moment of realization when they told me that the label on the front that said ‘do not open’ meant the box. I had to get a new one.” 

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Though Bertolet was able to replace her test, she said that the experience brought her undue stress that could have been avoided if instructions were clearer.

“It was really stressful and rushed,” she said. “I was worried I wasn’t going to get it in time, within the [required] 48 hours.”

Other students reported more extreme predicaments—some even reporting that they were missing important materials to administer their tests. 

“My bottle had nothing in it, so I had to search and buy another test,” tweeted Morgan Looby, a junior politician communication major—the bottle in question containing the solution that triggers the results. 

Miles Legrow, a junior visual and media arts major, also reported having no solution in his dropper. When he reached out to the college at the email listed for questions, he received no response. 

Other students, Bertolet among them, expressed more serious personal security concerns about the personal information collected by the proctoring app. 

“I found out that the whole account that we had to make with Navica, all the information we had to put in, all of the proof of the negative was not being used,” she said. “The college essentially asks for our word and provides a yes [or] no button for us to click. All of that works for something that anybody could lie about.”

Jill Hetherman, a first-year interdisciplinary studies major, agreed, saying she would have preferred to be tested in a professional setting rather than at home.

“If Emerson is trying to be proactive by getting people tested before coming back to campus, I feel like it should be done in a more accurate setting,” Hetherman said. “Going to a medical center in your community and then uploading a picture of your test result [would be better than] this at-home DIY testing kit that people don’t really understand how to use.” 

Bertolet echoed Hetherman’s concerns, saying she was worried about whether people actually took the tests to begin with. 

“I just have a lot of concerns about the whole process and don’t think it was helpful or useful or even really reliable because we don’t know who actually took the test if they could just say yes or no,” she said. 

Students were also stressed by the proctoring aspect of the test—an added surprise to the process.

“I wasn’t prepared,” said Bianca Cormier. “I didn’t know we were going online to see a real person proctoring it.” 

Despite the concerns, Erik Muurisepp, “COVID Lead” and associate vice president for campus life, said that “hiccups” were bound to happen due to the high volume of tests distributed. 

“When we had those situations arise, we worked with the students case by case to help make sure they get back to campus either with an extra test on arrival from the Campus Life Office,” he said.

Muurisepp remained confident in the test results; out of the 4,000 tests that students took, very few positives were reported. 

“Seeing there were students who attested to 4,000 rapid tests, and [seeing] very, very few positives from that, [the process] seemed to work overall.”