As Editor-in-Chief of The Mirror, it is my job to make sure that we report the truth, even if that truth is hard to hear or something that people simply do not want to acknowledge. So here is the truth at its core: We are living in a time when unity is everything, working together is the only way that we are going to beat this pandemic, yet I have seen a lot of division lately. It is bad enough that this world is already divided between those who believe that COVID-19 is real and those who think it is just a political stunt or not even a real virus. Of course it’s real, but that’s beside the point. What’s frustrating is that, even among all of the people who do believe that this pandemic is real, we still can’t follow simple and straightforward guidelines and procedures designed to slow the spread and stop this virus so that we can get back to some sort of normalcy. You would think that if anything could bring people together to work towards and achieve a common goal, it would be to stop this pandemic that is killing people and turning our lives upside down. What’s even more frustrating is that ever since moving back to campus, and maybe even before that, I have become divided within myself. I want to have hope that we can beat this virus, and for a while it did seem like we were doing pretty well, when we got through that really bad initial wave and started to see the number of deaths decrease. However, that hope has dwindled since coming to campus.
I chose to come back to campus this semester because I enjoy being in the classroom and I do better in my academics when I am physically in my learning environment. Despite only being able to participate in a handful of in-person classes this semester, I decided that it would be better for me academically to come to campus rather than staying at home and taking all of my courses online. I also chose to come back to campus because it is my senior year, and I know that if I chose to not come, I would look back on it in the future and deeply regret it. Like many of you who chose to move back onto campus this semester, I also came back so that I could see my friends and my boyfriend, of whom I was getting sick of only being able to see on Facetime during these long months away from school. Lastly, I came back because I had the slightest hope that we would be kept safe here at Fairfield. After watching the various webinars over the summer, I felt somewhat confident that we would be okay, and that the chances of us getting sent home in the middle of the semester were small.
In the days leading up to move in, that hope was disappearing, and here is where the division within myself comes into play.
To the students of Fairfield University, specifically those who are choosing to ignore the guidelines and procedures that were put in place to keep us safe, I want you all to know that your actions do have consequences. Was it worth it to wear your mask as an earring, a fashionable chin strap, or better yet, as a new pocket accessory, instead of wearing it properly? Was that party you attended with that large group of people worth it? People on campus are getting sick, and you could very well be part of the reason why. Despite the number of cases on campus being low, with only seven students reportedly testing positive and being in isolation at the time of writing this, there are still people getting sick when there could be none. It has only been a few weeks of this semester so far, and the number of cases are only going to go up, so let’s prevent this from happening.
I understand that you want to see your friends, and I understand that college is supposed to be some of the most fun times of your life, but we are in a pandemic, and partying is definitely not a priority. Life is short, but it’s not that short. You will have opportunities to make so many more meaningful memories in the future, once we are out of this pandemic. If you choose to be stupid now, you might regret it later, and regret is a feeling that will eat you alive.
I know that the University’s plan is not perfect, but I do believe that the guidelines and procedures that have been put in place are not very difficult to follow, and do not ask much of us. We are lucky that we can even have friends come over our residences. We are lucky that we have at least some in-person classes. All we have to do is wear our masks outside of our residences, social distance from people, not gather in large crowds and follow the visitor rules. I know these things are strange to us, but when it comes to a deadly virus going around, there’s not much being asked of us.
It makes me really sad that not even a pandemic can stop kids from partying on this campus. To me, those students value partying over their own health and safety, as well as everybody else’s, and that’s sad.
I know that a majority of the student body has been following the guidelines, and to those of you who are, thank you, and please keep doing what you are doing. It is people like you who will allow us to remain on campus, as well as get through this pandemic. I am calling out the smaller group of people who are choosing to ignore the guidelines because it really only takes one party to start an outbreak and send us home. If we all aren’t in this together, then I fear that we will not succeed.
To the University, I want to start out by saying thank you for all of your hard work over the summer to make returning to campus possible. I cannot even imagine how much work it was to get this campus operational amidst a pandemic. With that said, of course we all know that it is not a perfect system.
My main issue with the system is that, despite the basic threats that were thrown around about the consequences of violating the COVID-19 guidelines, I had serious doubts that the University would actually do anything to hold those violators responsible. When I logged on to the student conduct webinar that was hosted over the summer, I was hoping to hear that violators would be held accountable and that those students who were putting others at risk of contracting COVID-19 would be removed from campus immediately. The closest thing I heard to that was Father Doody talking about how serious violations for students on the beach are now equivalent to felonies. Dean Johnson did say during the webinar that students will be removed from campus if they are found to be violating the guidelines. This was great to hear, because honestly, those students who are putting others at risk really don’t deserve to be here.
However, this brings me to the issue of transparency, which I’ve had many conversations about with other students at this University. The underlying theme of these conversations is that Fairfield doesn’t have much transparency. In a time like this, nothing should be kept secret. I am not asking for Fairfield to release all of the names of everyone who is accused of violating the guidelines or who has contracted COVID-19 on campus, but I am asking that students be kept in the loop about how the University is holding people responsible. There should be no warnings; the reality of this pandemic should be warning enough. In Dean Johnson’s most recent email, he did say that some students have lost their privilege to fully participate in their experience at Fairfield due to their decisions, and that the dean’s office spent much of the week handling these violations. This is great, but also what does “participate fully” mean? Students violating the guidelines should lose their privileges completely and should just complete their course work remotely. I at least hope that action from the University and similar communications like this will continue.
So many people have worked so hard to get campus ready to welcome students back, and it’s all going to be for nothing if you do not keep taking action and communicating those actions with the student body. The kids violating these guidelines are going to keep violating them as long as they get away with it, so don’t let them get away with it. The threats you have spoken about previously are being treated as a fear tactic, and people are not going to believe that you will actually do anything until you actually do something to prove it.
I am also hoping that the number of cases on campus will continue to be reported out to students as soon as that information is available. The COVID-19 dashboard is up and running on the Fairfield website, and it is supposed to be updated every Friday after that week’s testing results come in, so I am hoping that the University can stay true to this throughout the year.
As residents on this campus, we deserve to know this information so that we can be assured that we are safe here. I’ve had a few friends tell me recently that they want to go home because they do not feel safe. This should be concerning to the University. There are people on this campus who want to be here and want to try and have a somewhat normal college experience this year, including me. Again, the University worked so hard to get us all here. I would hate to see that all go to waste and have us be sent home.
It is my senior year of college, and obviously this is not how I pictured it would be back when I was a first-year walking onto campus for the first time. It is not the senior year that I wanted for myself or my fellow senior classmates by any means, but this is the reality we are living in, and it’s time for people to come together and work to fix this mess while we can. I will be the first one to say that this situation sucks, everything about it truly does go against our human nature and nobody was fully prepared for any of this. Despite all of that, it is still something that we have to get through, and we are only going to be able to get through it by working together.