“We had all hoped that fall 2021 would look much more like the pre-pandemic campus life of years past. Yet, our experience has taught us that one of our most valuable traits is adaptability,” said President Julio Frenk in a video message to students on Aug. 2.
The past two years were the stuff of apocalyptic nightmares. The world has been held hostage by a grave and deadly virus; record-breaking natural disasters like California’s still-burning Dixie Fire, the largest single wildfire in state history; and widespread racial tension sparked by George Floyd’s murder, along with a series of political scandals and calamities.
As social polarization accelerates faster than ever and UM students emerge from a pandemic that will go down as a defining event in their lives, it is important that we take control of the opportunity we have been given. We have no choice but to take COVID seriously, again.
While we advocate vaccination for all people for whom it is available, the decision, ultimately, is yours. But for university students, safety in education depends on a commitment to following safety protocols.
One week before the beginning of their fall semester, three Broward county educators died within 24 hours due to complications of the COVID-19 virus. As schools across the country open for the academic semester, many teachers have no financial options but to work during what is still a deadly pandemic, while others are at an advanced risk of serious infection due to their age.
For those still unvaccinated, wearing a mask inside buildings on campus will not only help protect the student body, it will help faculty and staff who are more at risk of developing serious complications after COVID feel safe. For all students, wearing masks indoors and following proper hygiene in the classroom is the best way to safeguard against unknown carriers that may expose students and faculty to infection.
While university faculty and staff are required to be vaccinated, breakthrough cases of the Delta variant leave them open to exposure from students. They are not held to the same standards because of a Florida law advocated by Governor Ron Desantis that made it illegal for schools to require that students get the COVID shots. In fact, schools face fines of $5,000 per instance of mandatory COVID vaccination prior to enrollment..
Professors at UM stuck by us through the difficult transition to online classes. COVID forced them to adapt and drastically change the way they taught so we could continue to receive a great education and UM could continue to function as an institution. We, as a student body, have a responsibility to look out for teachers in the same way they have looked out for us.
Of course, those of us who have experienced the normalcy of college pre-COVID miss our freedom. Those who have not enjoyed that luxury hope to someday. But in order to depart the COVID era, we must take care of our fellow Canes, and ourselves, by using common sense to guide our day-to-day decision making.
This takes commitment, a commitment that is usually found in the shadows of temptation and dreams of better days. But we Canes are better than selfishness and vice, and a future that seems distant and unattainable is ours for the taking. We just have to take COVID seriously again.