By Stephen Neukam
Rider plans to start its random surveillance testing program this week with a new partner company after a weeklong delay due to administrative holdups, with a price tag of around $37,500 for the tests, according to a top university official.
The program, which will test students weekly on a voluntary basis, will launch Oct. 23, according to Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Planning and Secretary to the Board Debbie Stasolla. However, testing in the future will be held every Tuesday.
The university has reached an agreement with 1Health, a California-based testing company that has a lab in New Jersey. The testing program was scheduled to launch last week but was delayed after the Pennsylvania-based company the university tapped for the testing decided not to register its lab with the state of New Jersey, according to Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Planning and Secretary to the Board Debbie Stasolla.
The new arrangement will tweak how Rider plans to implement random testing. The testing will now be overseen by the Student Health Center and athletic trainers from the university’s athletics department. The tests will be self-administered saliva samples and students’ insurance will not be billed, which was the case with the prior plan.
The tests will cost the university $99 apiece, Stasolla said. This includes the cost of postage for sending the samples to the lab.
The university has adjusted its expectations for the volume of testing. Instead of its original goal of 80-100 students a week, Stasolla said the school will aim to test 25 volunteer students and 50 student-athletes per week, at a total cost of $7,500 weekly. The reduced surveillance testing goal is due to a low turnout for student volunteers, which Stasolla said was around 50 students. There are more than 900 students living on campus for the fall semester.
Stasolla said this agreement with 1Health is only a stopgap measure to get the program started and sustain it for five weeks until the end of the semester. The university is still evaluating options for the spring.
Stasolla confirmed that the university is not planning on mandating students get tested before their return to campus after winter break.
Contract Administrator and Chief Grievance Officer of Rider’s Chapter of the American Association of University Professors Jeffery Halpern, an associate professor in the Sociology and Criminology Department, said that he was concerned about the university’s lack of testing and offered that it should have begun a surveillance testing program much sooner.
“In general, our concerns that we have put in about testing, the response can be best described as ‘slow,’” said Halpern.
While the testing bill is heavy, Stasolla said this option is cheaper than the agreement with the prior company, which would have required the school to bring health professionals to campus to administer the tests.
Stasolla said the university will continue its efforts with the Student Government Association to raise awareness about the program and encourage more student engagement.