By Zoe Strozewski, Editor-in-Chief | Published by September 1, 2020
As we begin the fall semester, I want to impart a critical plea to my fellow students: do not treat this semester like semesters of the past because it is the opposite of ordinary. The consequences of irresponsible student behavior and a COVID-19 outbreak on campus could be devastating to the Kean community.
Kean has set social distancing guidelines for the semester.Photo courtesy of Kean website
The world has seen a minor return to normalcy, but it has already been proven that we are nowhere near ready to revisit our way of life before COVID-19 became a household name. However, Keans later-than-most start date has given us the chance to witness the consequences of partying in the COVID-19 era and learn from the mistakes of schools that have unsuccessfully tried to reopen.
The University of Connecticut, for example, recently quarantined a dorm of approximately 300 students after their building became a hotspot for COVID-19 infection, according to an article published by the CT Post.
The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill has already topped 1000 cases between students and employees since reopening, according to the schools COVID-19 dashboard. Additionally, the university has suspended all face-to-face classes and asked residential students to start moving back home.
Regardless of every precaution and safety protocol that Kean has already put in place, this is a future that we will also face if the students themselves dont follow the rules. This three week buffer weve been allotted may be extended into the whole semester faster than you can shotgun a Natural Light.
In many ways, the charm of college is ingrained in breaking the rules, especially for the freshmen. Moving into a dorm and living without the constant supervision of parents is a completely groundbreaking level of independence, and I know that having the traditional college experience is something many high schoolers look forward to.
However, if we prioritize the traditional college experience over staying safe, then we will undoubtedly get shut down again and wont have a college experience period.
As far as breaking rules goes, anything outside of the COVID-19 safety protocols is still fair game. Go break those rules. (That was a joke. Heres another one: three people with COVID-19 walk into a house party. You can probably guess the ending)
Another thing to consider is the financial repercussions the university will face if forced to close again. The previously mentioned University of Connecticut is already facing a $74 million budget deficit due to outbreaks on campus, and that figure could grow substantially if the school fully shuts down, according to an article published by the CT Mirror.
At the end of the Spring 2020 semester, Kean responded to financial difficulties caused by the pandemic by laying off over two dozen faculty and staff and fully cutting some programs, including music, theater education and sustainability science. If irresponsible student behavior caused another campus closure, the resulting financial deficit may result in even more job and program cuts.
So much more is at stake here than a simple bout of the flu. People could lose their jobs, their educational programs, their housing and, ultimately, their lives.
Its important to note that following the rules does not mean students have to be antisocial hermits this semester. There are many ways to spend time with friends without putting the entire campus community at risk. That isnt possible in overfilled dorm rooms or basements that spit on the name of social distancing.
It was a long shot that Kean would open at any capacity this semester. Students have the rest of their lives to have fun, so its critical that we lay low for this semester and stay disciplined. Hedonism and pandemics really dont mix well.
Young people, me included, often have an invincibility complex, but this isnt something we can avoid because of our age. Kean is not going to just get lucky and avoid an outbreak if students resort to their usual hijinks and approach this semester like any other. This school isnt going to miraculously avoid getting shut down just because we want that outcome badly enough.
What happened to UConn and the University of North Carolina will happen to us too if we dont approach these coming months with extreme caution.
My fellow students, if youre not going to do it for yourselves, do it for the professors who are risking their health, as well as their familys, to teach you on campus.
Do it for those with a higher risk of severe illness who will walk onto campus every day scared because they dont have the luxury of being cavalier with their health.
Do it for the students who live in the dorms and will lose their housing if rulebreakers decide to play Russian roulette with a contagious disease.
Do it for the Kean athletes whose seasons were suspended seasons and for the Class of 2020, that had to graduate from college on a laptop because a whole lot of people in this country decided not to take a pandemic seriously.
Do it for the faculty and staff that recently lost their jobs and the students who lost programs theyre passionate about due to COVID-19s financial devastation..
Lastly, do it for the students who dont get the privilege of being on campus this semester. They might be surviving on the possibility of the Kean population avoiding an outbreak so they have a chance of returning next semester. That hope is going to be destroyed the second students choose themselves over the good of the entire school.
Only time will tell whether Kean was equipped to reopen in the first place, but the only way we have any shot at all is if everyone (and I mean everyone) takes personal responsibility. The butterfly effect is real and poignant. It may take one selfish act from an infected person to trigger an outbreak powerful enough to destroy the fragile semester were starting.
This issue, unlike many of the worlds problems, is black and white. Either we do what it takes to keep the campus open, or we dont. Its that simple.
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