A week ago, I sat in my swivel chair in The Miami Student office, editing articles, cracking jokes with fellow editors and eating sour-flavored gummy worms from Emporium. My biggest concern was how I would manage to find the willpower to attend my 11:40 a.m. class the following morning.
Fast-forward a week and I’m again sitting in my swivel chair, but for what is probably the very last time. American life, along with the rest of the world, has changed dramatically since last week’s issue of The Student was published as our federal government attempts to contain an outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the U.S.
As restrictions piled on last week — limiting student organizations from holding events that would exceed a 50-person capacity to permanently moving classes online for the remainder of the semester — it was difficult to find a moment to breathe and understand what this all really meant.
At first, my friends and I cracked jokes. Then we stocked up on groceries. We hosted our housemate's last college-improv show in our backyard and cried while saying goodbye to our underclassmen friends on The Student.
I rotated between anger, frustration and deep sadness over the fact that my college experience is over.
But then I read more news. About low-income families who will struggle to make ends meet and feed their children, or the near-dystopian conditions of Northern Italy’s health care system, struggling under the weight of coronavirus patients.
I was ashamed of my selfish pity-party.
As I write this, my younger sister is on one of the last flights out of Dublin, Ireland to Chicago because her study abroad program was cancelled and Irish airlines prepared to ground 80 percent of all air travel. My parents are desperately trying to juggle their own professional obligations while keeping track of their four kids.
It’s easy to lose perspective as a college student. It’s also easy to feel nostalgic — both as a college senior and a writer.
The outbreak of a viral and deadly disease is forcing us all to reflect on what actually matters, and as we head into uncharted waters in the coming weeks and months I found myself doing just that.
Over the past three and a half years I have struggled to find the positivity while reporting on high-risk alcohol consumption, sexual assault and Greek hazing, among a host of issues at Miami University.
I would work myself into a cold sweat, sick to my stomach.
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Why didn’t other students care? I would ask myself.
It’s easy to get lost in the doom and gloom.
But for every gut-wrenching story I have reported, written or edited, there has always been a dose of hope waiting on the other end.
After Erica Buschick died from alcohol poisoning my freshman year, the culture at Miami shifted. The university’s outpatient treatment center, The Haven, started a substance abuse program, and students began being screened for substance abuse problems at the counseling center.
Maria Racadio, a former Miami student, who was raped by another former student (since imprisoned) started a company selling bath products to raise money to fund free self-defense classes for college-aged women, taking her on a journey “from victim to survivor.”
And this week, Tyler Perino, the former Miami student and member of Delta Tau Delta spoke with The Student about his hazing experience and why it is so important not to frame the question, “Why me?” in terms of how rotten his lot is, but instead challenging himself to speak out and demand change.
I’ve already seen this kind of attitude in small doses throughout our own community and beyond — students and able-bodied residents offering to take food and medical supplies to the elderly in Oxford or two young kids in the Columbus-area putting on a concert for their elderly neighbor in self-isolation.
So, as I sit in my swivel chair, struggling not to cry, wondering how I’ll manage to find the willpower to say (a hopefully temporary) goodbye to my best friends this week, I remind myself there will be light at the end of this global pandemic, just as there has always been at Miami University.