By Len La Rocca
Incoming freshmen are rallying around a petition advocating for the College’s sports teams to resume in the fall semester. This came after President Foster’s announcement that all extracurricular activities will be canceled for the upcoming semester due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The petition, which was created just one day ago, has garnered over 1,250 signatures. Yet, it has left current students and recent graduates like Maura Farrell (‘20) wondering if a return to sports is safe.
“Have any of you thought about the students and professors with health risks like asthma and diabetes? The students who live at home and commute? Those who live with elderly people? Or people who live on campus because they have housing insecurities,” Farrell commented on the Class of 2024’s Instagram post that’s promoting the petition.
Other students echoed Farrell’s concerns, with her comment having received over 25 likes.
Incoming freshman Ariana Jones, a student-athlete and the creator of the petition, clarified to The Signal, saying that she did not intend to undermine the social climate. She said that instead, she simply wanted to reopen the discussion about safely returning to collegiate sports.
“I’m not here to start any arguments. I just gave people a platform to put their opinion out there,” Jones said. “I don’t believe I should have to defend myself. If the petition works, then it works. If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t. There are just so many ways to safely go about these things without canceling them outright.”
This has not been the first petition that has received attention from the college community. In just the past few months, petitions to offer a pass/fail option for the spring 2020 semester, to allow student organizations to expedite the process for fundraising and to reform the William Green House have all succeeded or received attention from the College’s administration.
Unlike the others, this petition has created a stir amongst students who feel that sports are not a priority at this time when systemic racism and public health are at the forefront of thought.
“Just because the world is protesting through petitions doesn’t mean this one is valid,” said Marcus Allen, a rising senior African American studies major. “Throw the petition away.”
But many supporters of the petition wrote that students should decide for themselves if they are willing to take the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19 in their reasons for signing.
This sentiment has come across as selfish to those most affected by the virus. Recent graduate Hannah Anolik (‘20) is concerned that those mostly unaffected by the threat of catching COVID-19 aren’t thinking about the immunocompromised.
“Speaking as someone with a chronic illness, it is insensitive to ignore public health guidelines because it does not affect you directly but only those around you,” Anolik wrote. “I graduated in May and hope to always be proud of TCNJ for standing together as a community.”
Jawan Turner (‘19) offered guidance based on personal experience regarding the serious threat that the transmission of COVID-19 poses.
“As someone who recently just lost a friend to COVID, sports and/or extracurricular activities should not be your top priority coming into the TCNJ community,” Turner wrote. “I understand how exciting the transition of starting college is, but during these dark times please consider your and other people’s health as top priority.”
Foster hasn’t acknowledged the petition at this time.