Who is to Blame: Students or Administration?

Despair, A small word that carries profound meaning, and one we are all feeling in these vexing times. Being a student in a pandemic is trifling, I often feel a sense of running but never reaching the finish line. COVID-19 is hated by students worldwide, but what we students dislike more is being treated as a cash grab by our universities. As we are all aware, someone else is profiting from our very existence. Making billions off our troubles and giving none back to us. In The Daily Tar Heel, an example of this is laid out perfectly in the “Editorial Board,” “We’re angry — and we’re scared. We’re tired of the gaslighting, tired of the secrecy, tired of being treated like cash cows by a University with such blatant disregard for our lives.” In this adamant claim, these student’s feelings can be applied nationally and understood by most: we feel used. Our universities are not working for the students, and put their profits before students. How can we work together to keep everyone held accountable and safe?

To my understanding, COVID-19 is taken lightly by the Tennessee Technological University administration. Students receive no updates on clusters or cases inside the university, students do not get tested weekly nor are they roomed separately in dorms, and most professors are passively teaching online/in-person while not engaging with the students. I am instructed to follow a set of “reasonable” rules, merely telling  “we understand your troubles” without my troubles being accommodated. The students who wrote the Editorial at the University of North Carolina (UNC) also resonate with this viewpoint. In their article, they walk the reader through the second week of the semester: campus COVID-19 cases are steadily rising, their administration is taking little action; and they are frustrated. Being a college student, you prepare yourself to be financially extorted, but no one prepares you to put your life on the line for an education. Not only do students now put their own lives in danger, but their households as well. Being uninformed in our fast paced society leads to error quickly, especially when it is about COVID-19 cases. The students at UNC wanted to know the number of positive COVID-19 cases on campus, but UNC declined because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). One question standing, are students also to blame for the COVID-19 cases? 

To Put it simply, yes, the students can also be blamed for the rise in COVID-19 cases. In an ideal mid-pandemic world, everyone would follow three simple rules. Wash your hands, wear your mask, and stay six feet away. College students are not immune to these rules, and if anything, need to follow them strictly. Yet, these rules seem insurmountable to some.College is notorious for its parties, frat houses, and booming social life. While those are the staple experiences in college, in a pandemic it is the what-not-to-do outline. In The Emory Wheel students are facing that exact problem shown here, “This week, the Wheel reported that a number of first-year students disregarded the Community Compact by frequenting bars and clubs during the fall.” Emory University is facing the difficulty of student negligence, despite the Emory compact that was signed by every student. Specifically, they are talking about first-year students, Fraternity houses, and off-campus students failing to comply. The simple act of not wearing a mask to these parties can cause severe injury or death to someone's mom, dad, grandma, or even the student themselves. As a student whose mom is immuno-compromised, I know the fear is real; Death was once on her doorstep when she contracted COVID-19 resulting in her having weaker lungs. It is known first-year students got their college experience taken away, but that is simply not an excuse to put people's lives in danger. Emory University also addressed this in their article, “While we recognize first-year students have been stripped of their college experience, their actions have put the entire Emory community at risk.” Emory sympathizes with the first-years, while also having a realistic stance on the gravity of COVID-19. Emory also recognizes that not just first-years are breaking their guidelines. It is evident that the university students are not upholding the expectation that they are required to. 

“Even if this doesn’t apply to all first-year students, this signals a lack of consciousness and responsibility from those with the privilege of residing on campus.”  In this statement, Emory is putting rightful blame on on-campus students, they are not following the rules. On-campus get tested regularly,using that to justify not following guidelines . The main point of being in a pandemic is that we are all in it together, literally. Students taking COVID-19 less-serious because they get tested regularly is unfair and potentially dangerous.

Understanding that first years had parts of their life taken away, but still requiring them to follow the same rules is not unreasonable and is required by the CDC. All students are held to those expectations, first years are no exception. Though the students have the individual responsibility to keep people safe, the administration has a leadership responsibility to uphold with the students as well. An example of such responsibilities not being carried out is; at Emory they test on-campus students, yet they do not test off-campus students. This type of negligence leads to disproportionate safety measures and is unfair to both on and off campus students. 

As a final observation, it can be said both parties, students and administration, need to reform and be better. Colleges like Emory, UNC, Tennessee Tech all need to put students first rather than money. As well as keeping their colleges safe, clean, and informative to students and faculty about cases or clusters. Students all need to follow the three-basic rules of how-to-not-get-infected: stay home or in the dorm, test yourself regularly, and be considerate of others. Being in a pandemic is tough on everyone individually, oftentimes feelings of loneliness and isolation can be suffocating. However, working together will lighten the burden. Together we make compromises, self-regulate exposure, and practice COVID-19 guidelines. Everyone can do their part and help others to achieve the greater good.


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