Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

Personal responsibility just won’t cut it

Some people call me a cynic. Others say I have a “glass-half-empty” mindset. I call myself a realist.

Look, RedHawks, it’s obvious that we all want this pandemic to end, to cease, to be obliterated and deleted from our memories – but work must be done to accomplish this, and, honestly, I don’t trust us enough to get it done.

I don’t trust the dozen-or-so kids in my lecture class wearing their masks below the nose or even below the chin to keep anyone safe. I don’t trust the faculty members who don’t police mask-wearing and ensure COVID-safe practices during class. I refuse to believe that sitting down in Armstrong instantly immunizes those indulging themselves with a meal from Pulley.

Our administration gave up.

Let’s face the facts. It’s in big red writing on all the walls.

No more mandatory testing. We had to seek out pre-move-in tests on our own before many of us traveled to get to Oxford. We have to quarantine at home if we live as far as Louisville, Mansfield, OH, or Indianapolis.

Miami chose to tout the abilities of its student body, believing we can save ourselves if we so choose. The same student body, by the way, that accumulated 1,117 cases before we even had on-campus move-in for fall 2020 and has been crowding the bars on High Street every weekend since.

Yes, of course, it is up to the students to do our part, wear our masks, wash our hands, abstain from partying with hundreds of others every weekend night, but we cannot pretend that this community of students has acted in the best interest of public health for the duration of this pandemic.

I applaud the editorial staff for asking its peers to mask up and help us march, strongly, towards the finish line of this damned thing.

But personal responsibility is not enough, we need guidance, leadership – rules for God’s sake. 

It’s only the second week of classes and already I’m watching a student with her mask below her chin, well-within an arm's length of the professor, just having a chat. I’m already seeing lecture halls - with no distancing mandate - with too many students, and student after student, mask below the nose, below the chin and the absolute worst – neck gaiters.

The pandemic is not over. Every time we start telling people numbers are going down and that we can relax, people take their masks off and lose sight of what it actually means to go back to normal.

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Normal is not treating COVID-19 like the common cold – at least not yet.

Miami needs to shift its messaging back to what it was, back to genuinely assessing the pandemic as what it is rather than looking at data with the diluted eyes of utopian hopefulness.

We need to be as cautious as ever at this tipping point, if not more cautious than before. We need to dig COVID-19 a grave and beat it into submission. We cannot relax our rules out of laziness because viruses do not follow mandates. Viruses don’t slow down because we’re slowing down.

We need mandated testing, better quarantine options, distancing in classrooms and indoor facilities and places to eat where we aren’t pretending to be safe just because it feels nicer.

It makes me as miserable as anyone. If anything, I’m the case study for negative effects on college students due to the pandemic. 

This is simply no reason to relent. Can we push past this, finally, so we can start feeling more free to exist as we deserve to be?

I’d love to say the choice is ours, but Miami is giving the choice to those who gave up on March 14, 2020.

Reinstate our safety guidelines that forced honesty about how many active cases there are, and forced accountability on those not willing to keep their peers safe. Have faculty enforce mask mandates because without enforcement, there is no mandate. 

Protect your students, your faculty and your staff – all of whom are trying to make it through this terrifying stretch of dystopian life before it becomes a permanent reality.

The people who have cared to be safe will continue to do so, there’s been no change there. Give those of us who have cared about our peers a break by making it worth it.

So, please, give us defensive measures, protect us, test us and do what you can to keep Miami and Oxford healthy. 

@devin_ankeney

ankenedw@miamioh.edu 

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