With President Greg Crawford’s announcement that Miami University would proceed with its phased-in return to campus, members of the class of 2024 had mixed feelings about starting their college experience.
For most first-years, the decision to return came after weeks of watching off-campus students in Oxford neglect social distancing guidelines that would be crucial to their return to campus. Many feel that off-campus students very nearly destroyed their chance at a semi-normal beginning to college.
“I’m frustrated because these people are adults,” said first-year Chloe Thach. “These are the people who are going to graduate and go off into the world, and they can’t even handle being responsible for themselves.”
Looking at the more than 1,000 COVID-19 cases accumulated from mostly off-campus students, Thach is concerned whether on-campus students will be able to finish the semester in Oxford.
“I don’t know how long we’re going to be back for,” Thach said. “Whether it’s a month or we make it through the semester, I feel like a lot of it depends on how the upperclassmen conduct themselves. I think us staying on campus will depend on if the upperclassmen try to contain the numbers and not have it spread even more.”
Thach also acknowledged the division between upperclassmen students on practicing responsible social distancing.
“Not every upperclassman has [the coronavirus], and I think those are the ones who have kept other people in mind,” Thach said. “The whole purpose of social distancing is to protect yourself and others. The ones who are only thinking about themselves aren’t going to follow that.”
At the time of Crawford’s decision, Miami’s Oxford campus had 1,037 active student cases, according to the COVID-19 dashboard. The university continues to encourage the importance of following social distancing guidelines, including restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people and required face coverings in public.
“It feels like we’re all trying to make sacrifices, and upperclassman are just not doing the same,” said first-year Lauren Kin.
“Starting college is hard enough as it is, [and] these people know that,” Kin added. “And we’ve had to start it online, which is that much harder, and I just don’t think they realize the gravity of their decisions.”
Around 40% of on-campus students chose to remain remote for this semester, according to a university-wide email from Crawford.
Corinne Rogers, a first-year student from Virginia, always planned to return to campus.
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“I think it’s the nature of the disease that we’re just going to see new cases,” Rogers said. “That’s going to happen.”
“But it also depends on what the students are doing,” she added. “I think the fact that, with such a small percentage of students living in Oxford, we’re still seeing the same numbers as colleges with their full student population, that’s what’s really concerning. There’s obviously something amiss.”
Rogers also brought up her frustrations with upperclassmen students not following university and city guidelines.
“I’m trying to remind myself that it’s not every single upperclassman that’s going out and partying, but there definitely was partying happening,” Rogers said. “It’s frustrating to see people not taking it seriously, because they’re only thinking about themselves and not how it’s going to affect everyone else.”
Disparity within the student body doesn’t end with first-year students. Following Crawford’s decision, several upperclassman students took to social media to display their disapproval with the decision to have on-campus students return to Oxford.
A popular Instagram account among Miami students with nearly 6,000 followers, @miamiohchicks, took to its Instagram story on Sept. 9 to ask upperclassmen to give advice to the incoming first-years, stating, “We truly hope to see you … don’t ruin it by getting COVID and spreading it throughout the dorms and shutting down campus.”
The conversation quickly turned into a conflict between first-years and upperclassman students, with upperclassmen warning first-years not to cause an increase in campus cases.
“You guys started the 1000+ cases, don’t blame it on us,” one anonymous user said in response to the criticism against first-year students. “Take responsibility over it.”
The account quickly fired back against these criticisms stating, “We think it’s funny that you guys are throwing shade and still coming back to campus and are most definitely going to party…”
Another anonymous user replied to the account’s call for advice with a simple, “Don’t come back.”
Official move in for on-campus students began Sept. 14, spanning throughout the week. Currently, the university intends to keep students until Nov. 20, with final exams conducted remotely after Thanksgiving.