By Kate McBride || Contributing Writer
This morning, I decided to take a stroll around campus. Seldom do I pause my “hustle and bustle” to take a deep breath, and truly soak in the environment around me. As I scanned the campus, something struck me: there are so few people here. With sophomores studying remotely, international students learning from all over the planet, and the majority of upperclassmen living in off-campus housing, there isn’t much life on campus. On a nice, sunny morning, seeing Hartman Green completely empty was strange, to say the least.
The pandemic has completely changed the college experience for everyone. Obviously, some have been affected more than others. Sophomores, in particular, have felt quite out of luck. They lost the latter half of their on-campus first year, only to be told that they must also study remotely during the fall semester of their second year. However, once the spring semester begins, sophomores will be welcomed back to campus. Unfortunately, this in turn means that first-years must study remotely, in exchange for the sophomores’ return.
As expected, several first-year students and parents expressed feelings of anger and sadness when this plan was confirmed in the middle of October. As a first-year myself, I absolutely understand and empathize with those feelings; being completely honest, I even had a glimmer of hope.
With that being said, the college has made the wisest call.
On the day I am writing this, October 23rd, the United States has set a new record for the most reported COVID-19 cases in one day — over 75,000 according to The New York Times. The pandemic is far from over; we are still deep in this hole, and we must do everything we can to dig ourselves out of it.
Safety is paramount. The practices that F&M has implemented (wastewater testing, random testing, group testing) have been working great. On-campus, numbers are low at only 19 positive cases since the beginning of Module 1. If the system isn’t broken, we shouldn’t try to fix it. It’s too early, and the nation’s cases are on the rise.
As a first-year, I know how hard it is to leave just as we are getting settled. Believe me, it’s a hard pill for me to swallow, as well. But, we must put the wellbeing of our families, our friends, our fellow F&M students, our professors, and their families and friends above our desire to live on campus. The sophomores have earned their right to return to campus in a safe environment, just as we were provided.
Let’s keep the big picture in mind. All over the country, thousands of college students were not given the opportunity to attend in-person at all. A multitude of colleges closed completely. While it stinks that us first-year students are being sent home, let’s be thankful that we had the chance to be here at all. If we continue to keep the numbers low, we are headed in the right direction toward having every student back here at F&M.
To the sophomores, your patience has been greatly appreciated. You deserve to be here, in the same conditions that we have been afforded. As F&M students, we’re all in this together. Let’s continue to social distance, to wear masks, and to listen to science. The harder we work to combat the pandemic, the sooner we can all be together on campus.
First year, Kate McBride, is a contributing writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.