Flames of the Torch: A Week in Review

October is in full swing, marking the eighth month of the ongoing pandemic. From Broadway to concerts to sports to education, COVID-19 has affected it all. 

This past week brought back a lot of memories from March when we began the transition to online learning as the COVID-19 rate of infection in New York reached its peak. Now, seven months later, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Cuomo identified two cluster zones where cases are rising in Queens, one of which includes the St. John’s Queens campus.  

Cases also are rising on campus, as students residing in Hollis Hall underwent mandatory testing and remained in quarantine until their results were released. Though cases are rising, a majority of the students that are quarantining or self-isolating are located off campus. This again brings about a question we’ve been asking for several weeks – how are students doing their part when they are not on campus?  

The Torch found that students residing in Hollis Hall were not informed of positive cases within their residence hall, nor were they informed that students that may have been quarantining in their building prior to the mandatory testing that occurred last Thursday. According to the Office of Student Affairs, only “students that are required to isolate or quarantine are notified of their specific circumstances.”

It is the job of the University to keep the student body updated. When students are only disclosed this kind of information via the reported cases dashboard on the University website, it creates a very nerve-wracking situation for students stepping onto campus. For those with in-person classes, there is a heightened anxiety that comes when they are sitting in a classroom for hours at a time. There is a common human fear when it comes to the unknown. Residence Life has an obligation to all students who decide to dorm, and to the other people coming to campus, to inform them of anything that can affect their health. 

With COVID-19 numbers on the rise again, especially in the Queens area, there is a sense of impending doom that school will be shut down again; our money, time and energy wasted. In order to alleviate some anxiety within the walls of SJU, those coming onto campus should be mandated to take a COVID-19 test, rather than a daily questionnaire. Rather than only testing resident students at random each week, everyone coming to campus should be a part of the University’s random selection pool.  New York University mandated that all students, faculty and staff submit a positive COVID-19 test before returning to campus this semester, a measure that to most would seem indispensable for a college that is reopening. And yet, St. John’s reopened this fall without such a mandate. 

Meanwhile, in a welcoming semblance of normalcy on amour, in-person tours of campus recently resumed — with safety precautions for all involved. As we chug on through the semester and into a relatively-unknown spring semester, students are left with the fact that there will be no spring break. In our Opinion section this week, one writer described their disappointment with the University’s decision to deprive students of this much-needed break.

In other news, even with the absence of sports this semester, there is still hope. As of right now, all sports except basketball are postponed for SJU student athletes until 2021, but that doesn’t mean these teams can’t practice.

Our Sports Editor, Sydney Denham, is running the sports section from Massachusetts this semester. Just this week, her section highlighted the Women’s Volleyball team as they come off a win from the 2019 Big East Volleyball Championship Title and look forward to perfecting their game in order to defend their championship title, whenever that may be. This year they welcomed new players to the team, creating a team that almost solely consists of international players back at Carnesecca. 

The Men’s Baseball team has also welcomed new players, who have used these past few months during the shutdown to perfect their own positions. They have high hopes this coming season that St. John’s will make an impact at the Big East playoff.   

With the Big East’s Basketball Media Days fast approaching, we’re looking forward to producing a mini, virtual edition of Courtside, our annual basketball magazine. 

As the weeks left in the fall semester dwindle down, what lies in the imminent future is uncertain for most, including for us here at the Torch, but we hope the University can do their part, as we all have, to alleviate some of the anxiety community members are faced with on a day-to-day basis back on campus.