Op-Ed: Students Returning to a Vaccinated F&M

By Muna Sultana || Contributing Writer

With the turmoil of the 2020-2021 academic year, we were all relieved to hear that F&M would be bringing back the entire campus community this fall. For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the entirety of the student body will be together, heading to Stager in person for their classes instead of staring blankly at a Zoom screen. The Class of 2024 and 2023 will finally get to meet beyond Zoom screens and welcome the new freshman together. The promise of a fully residential fall experience almost seems too good to be true. 

With this promise, though, comes a condition. On May 18, 2021, PORT sent out an announcement sharing that F&M will require all enrolled students to provide proof of receiving a COVID vaccine. This email came as no surprise to most of the campus community given the increase in COVID-19 protocols during the spring semester, as COVID testing increased and stricter rules were enforced.  

As a freshman coming to F&M in the middle of a global pandemic, the experience we had in the fall was less than satisfactory. While F&M did their best to contain the spread of COVID, we experienced numerous quarantines and often had to shift from in-person classes to Zoom given the situation on campus. The COVID-19 vaccine mandate released by PORT ensures that we will be able to return to as normal of a semester as possible. According to the Providence Journal, the United States saw COVID cases drop 31% over the last two weeks, which can be attributed to the rising number of vaccinated Americans.

The fact of the matter is that we will never be able to return to the sense of “normalcy” we had before the pandemic. The remnants of COVID will stay with us, regardless of the state of infection the pandemic has. We have now learned how to navigate academic and career pursuits on virtual platforms, picked up new hobbies and passions in quarantine, and learned how to adapt in the face of adversity. For many of us, we never had a prom or graduation. For others, we never got to study abroad or do that internship we worked so hard to get. COVID-19 brought on a world of trials and tribulations but we were able to learn so many lessons throughout this journey. 

Vaccinating F&M takes us a step further in our transition into the post COVID world. A world where Zoom and Google Meets exist as backup platforms – not as our sole method of communication. A world where we can see more than just each other’s eyes as we walk to Blue Line and can recognize one another beyond just the type of mask they wear. A world where sporting events can become a reality and student athletes can return to the games they love.

We will never be able to return to the F&M we were before the pandemic struck. But vaccinating all students provides us with the closest reality we can achieve. 

First-year Muna Sultana is a Contributing Writer. Her email is msultana@fandm.edu.

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