While our previous post listed plenty of concerns that many shares, we felt it was incomplete and wanted to add our thoughts specifically regarding (1) FGLI and (2) immunocompromised members of our community. This article addresses those concerns.
Two nights ago, I saw a tweet that Amherst was shutting down campus to decrease the risk of spreading COVID-19 to other students, faculty, and staff. They made the calculation that since students would be traveling off-campus during spring break –– despite being encouraged not to –– it would be incredibly difficult to contain the virus on campus. The following morning, Harvard followed suit due to the same concerns.
When I saw these announcements over Twitter, the first thing I thought was, Fuck, how am I going to finish my work-study? I calculated how much I would have earned for the rest of the semester and felt my heart drop. As a second-semester senior, I took on extra hours this semester, working 4 jobs to earn extra money to pay off my loans post-grad. But, the next thought I had was, Fuck, senior year might end early. I texted my friends, upset about the possibility of missing out on my last quarter at Wesleyan. I thought of the things I still have to do on campus: popping champagne on the steps of Olin, enjoying the sunset on Foss, giving my last tour, stressing about finals in SciLi, commencement. The list goes on.
While I do acknowledge that some of the responses to COVID-19 are unnecessary, there are some real, valid concerns that need to be addressed regarding keeping campus open. Yesterday, Wesleying published an article in haste that only spoke to one side of campus––the ones who are afraid of what the rest of the semester might hold. The thing is, this is an extremely complex issue. You, I, the Wes community, can be sad about the possibility of campus closing while also acknowledging the gravity of the situation. We do not have to operate in a binary that either: (1) Wesleyan will shut its doors to all students and not provide resources to those who rely on campus for income, housing, and food or (2) Open campus and pretend that everything is normal.
There have been countless articles that have attempted to explain possible solutions for colleges to mitigate the risk of COVID-19. Some of them call for a complete shut-down of schools to avoid a cruise-ship-like spread of the virus. There are some that say the opposite, arguing that college students are a low-risk population. While I would love to be an idealist and argue that the latter is true, we have forgotten that Wesleyan is not just college-aged students. There are elderly, immunocompromised faculty who will be at-risk if students return to campus. There are staff members who are concerned about the health of their families. There are Middletown community members who will be at risk if the entire student body returns to campus. Not to mention, parts of a student body who, despite Dean Whaley’s continued discouragement, traveled abroad to at-risk counties. The point of (partially) closing campus is to “flatten the curve” and ensure that hospitals have enough resources to treat those in need. This is the reality that we need to face, and instead of arguing in binaries, we should, instead, ally around the students who will be most affected by a potential closure.
Here are some potential solutions that live in the intermediary space between those two binaries: