Fall Housing should not be an option


Torch Photo/ Sara Kiernan

Last year on March 9 the University made the decision to suspend all in-person classes due to increasing COVID-19 concerns. Classes transitioned online and most of us moved back home, and the number of cases slowly spiked over the following months — leaving all but essential businesses to close their doors. 

In the same vein, I did not expect that the University would open its doors again for the Fall 2020 semester, especially not the residence halls. Many people have no idea who they are living with and what they have been exposed to. The fact that there is a possibility of  contracting COVID-19 and remaining asymptomatic should have been enough of a reason for campus to remain closed. 

The situation right now is not as intense as it was at the height of the pandemic last year; cases have been on a decline since January. However, that does not mean that we should revert back to our pre-pandemic lifestyle and completely forget that we were in lockdown for six months for a reason. I lived on campus for two years before the pandemic, and in my experience, rules like no alcohol or guests without proper identification were frequently ignored. COVID-19 has restricted residents even further by discouraging socialization on or off-campus and limiting visitation to other dorm rooms. I know that college is the time to have fun and live our lives but in the middle of a public health scare, our well-being and safety is more important. This is not the time to go rogue, break rules and have off-campus social gatherings against safety guidelines. 

Offering housing on campus before vaccines could be distributed is just adding to the problem.  Having dorms open in the middle of the pandemic makes it seem as if everything is normal when it is not. It’s not as if suspending housing would have been a permanent issue; it would be a temporary solution to prevent the spread of COVID-19 for the well-being of students. Like in any household, if one resident of a suite contracts the virus, then the chances are extremely high for the others to contract it as well. Last spring, the University kept most classes in an exclusively online format. They should have kept it that way until there was a more viable solution — like the vaccine. 

Now that the vaccine is here, the question is whether or not it will be required for all university-aged students to receive in order to continue attending their institution. It should be mandated because it ensures that we are all taking the necessary precautions to keep each other safe. It is especially crucial for those who will be dorming; it shouldn’t have to take a tragic incident for all of us to wake up and react to it. 

Mandating the COVID-19 vaccine would be proactive and no different than mandating the meningitis vaccine for all college-bound students. Of all the people we interact with on a daily basis, we do not know who is most susceptible and we shouldn’t have to find out. Getting the vaccine is like wearing our masks in public –– a precaution that keeps us and those around us safe. I know the vaccine isn’t a cure, nor is it 100% effective, but it is one of the safeguards we have right now and I think we need to do all we can to stay healthy.