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Justified hesitation: why we should not return to campus for spring

By McKenzie Collins

As a student who graduated high school amidst a global pandemic, thus losing the cherished staples of secondary education such as senior trips, graduation ceremonies and proms, being able to finally attend college would be a dream come true. Learning that my academic career would be further delayed was devastating, as it was for many others — but it was not without reason. 

The potential dangers of an in-person gathering, especially to this extent, are enough to threaten the health of our students, staff and the surrounding community. When we are forced to make a dangerous choice, can the College administration really be faulted for prioritizing safety over academic quality and experience?

There are justified reasons to not return to campus in the spring (tcnj.edu).

While the majority of the campus community is made up of mature, well-informed individuals, we must still consider the fact that we are college students. We are eager to learn, but we are young and we make mistakes. 

How many students have decided that they have been in quarantine long enough? One individual’s decision to attend a party or skip wearing a mask could turn into a wildfire. Furthermore, social distancing measures have impacted the mental health of many young adults, adding to the mentality that “fresh air” might be beneficial. But on a campus filled with students who are starved for social interaction — all of whom are eager to get back to the social lives that were forced to put on pause without consent — it may be asking for trouble.

According to ABC7 Eyewitness News, 11 schools in New Jersey that have reopened reported outbreaks of Covid-19 as of Sept. 30. On Oct. 15th, NJ.com reported that this number had increased to 22. Additionally, they confirmed that all of these cases led to instances in which it was further spread amongst the students or staff. 

These schools had all implemented new Covid-19 protocols and presumed, as some faculty members of the College have, that they were prepared to handle the situation. They were undeniably wrong, and we cannot afford to make the same mistake. Without even considering the Covid-19 cases that have already been diagnosed among students from the College during the virtual semester, the number of cases will undoubtedly continue to increase if we add in-person learning and dorms into the mix. 

While the College does not have the same amount of risks as an elementary school filled with somewhat oblivious children, we are located directly in the middle of Ewing Township. Our proximity to a residential area means that the surrounding community is affected by our actions, and vice versa. Ewing High School is a mere six-minute drive from campus and the local school district will be returning to school on Oct. 26. In the event of an outbreak, it would be incredibly difficult to prevent the diffusion of the disease between two functioning campuses.

We pose a danger to each other, but the College dorming situation should be considered in particular. Gatherings would be near impossible to regulate and we have been introduced into a world in which a single off-campus trip carries weight. While it is not convenient or even fair, it is our new reality and we can not afford to handle it with blissful ignorance.

It must also be considered that we can not expect our community to remain on campus at all times. It is not reasonable to demand that everyone quarantines within campus, and while the ideally preventative Roar app is a useful tool, it can only do so much once large gatherings become inevitable and students begin living in such close proximity. 

Our situation comes down to a battle of priorities. While I want nothing more than to finally meet my peers in person and to never launch the Zoom app again, I am aware that it is not plausible at this time. The students of the College do not deserve to hold the lives of the surrounding community in their hands, and this would be the case when one misstep can contribute to the spread of a life threatening disease with unknown long term effects. 

While I trust our students and staff to behave with the utmost care, why implement a risky plan when the situation will improve with time? Harvest your resilience and composedly wait until we are able to gather without risk.

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