College students can rightfully feel like they’re being cheated. It’s only a brief time in their lives they get to experience anything like campus life, and this is a year unlike any other. But for everyone’s benefit, including their own, they need to show some common sense and respect for basic health guidelines. It’s the only way to keep the coronavirus pandemic under control.
Early indications are that this could be a tall order.
A number of University of Connecticut students have been removed from campus housing this week as officials launched an investigation into a dorm party that may have violated COVID-19 measures. “Students were not wearing masks, closely assembled and endangering not only their own health and well-being, but that of others at a time when UConn is working to protect our community and resume classes in the context of a deadly global pandemic,” a letter to students stated.
It’s tempting to dismiss this as completely unsurprising behavior that isn’t worth dwelling on. Teenagers aren’t always known for displaying the best judgment, and certainly no one is shocked to see college students having a party. But university officials are right to crack down, and have no choice but to take similar action in future incidents. The reality is that there will be no campus experience of any kind if students can’t figure out a way to live under current strictures.
Other colleges around the country have opted to go online-only this fall. UConn and other Connecticut schools have curtailed on-campus housing, trying to make it possible to maintain social distancing, while adopting a hybrid model of in-person and e-learning depending on the circumstances. Everyone is trying to adjust to the new reality.
Administrators can be forgiven for wondering how we ended up like this. When the virus hit in the early spring and colleges sent everyone home for the semester, it was reasonable to think we’d be in a better position by now to start a new year. Few would have thought the federal response would have fallen as short as it has, especially when other countries that were in equally serious straits at the start are now reopening in something like typical circumstances. The U.S. remains far from that, even in places like Connecticut, where the virus is relatively contained.
Most colleges are doing the best they can, and part of that means enforcing safety guidelines that students might find stifling. With the virus on the loose and no remedy on the horizon, there is no other option. People’s lives are on the line.
That’s what makes this discussion hard to take. The coronavirus has taken the lives of more than 170,000 people in this country, and there are places where its spread has hardly been contained. College students are being asked to sacrifice, but what they’re giving up isn’t nearly as serious as what others have faced.
They don’t have to like it, but if they want to avoid being sent home altogether, college students need to show some common sense for a while.