The following is a detailed account of events that occurred throughout Fall Term and have seemingly continued into the very early beginnings of Winter Term. These events are violations of COVID-19 safety protocols implemented by Lawrence University. The individual that has brought this to the attention of the writer will remain anonymous to ensure their safety.
All over the nation, colleges and universities are delaying reopening their campuses for in-person classes during the spring term. The University of Pittsburgh is among the academic institutions that has encouraged students to remain in their current residences and not return to campus. In an open letter, it was stated that they plan to have virtual classes for the first few weeks of the new semester in an attempt to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and in the future, “Pitt will provide notice at least two weeks before we advise that you travel to our campuses.”
In early December, CNBC reported that “other colleges are also making plans to reopen for in-person learning, despite the ongoing public health crisis,” and now there are reports from insidehighered.com that Rutgers University President has tested positive for COVID-19. It was recently reported by U.S. News, CNBC, NBC 5 (Chicago) and hopkinsmedicine.org that new Coronavirus mutations are being identified by health professionals and medical scientists all over the world.
To refocus COVID-related news to the Appleton area, the COVID-19 Dashboard, available on the Lawrence University website, reports that there are currently 15 COVID-19 positive cases, eight of which are students. The City of Appleton has a current total of 748 reported active cases, 53 reported deaths, and 30,000+ negative cases. There are 31 daily positive cases reported in the Appleton area.
At Lawrence University, the members of the hockey team that live at an off-campus residence, across the street from Plantz Hall, have been hosting parties during Fall Term. My source has detailed that these parties occurred very frequently in Fall Term, and no social-distancing or health guidelines were followed to slow the spread of the novel Coronavirus.
Upon receiving this information, my follow up questions were something along the lines of, “what punitive actions have been taken against these individuals by Lawrence Administrators?” The answer was that the Lawrence Administrators have done little to nothing to resolve this issue; the problem has been that the very capable Administration of this fine university can’t do much.
Dean of Students Curt Lauderdale was called upon to resolve these issues, but my source was told by Lauderdale that, since the students live on an off-campus residence, all they could do was notify the hockey coaches of the behavior. The Lawrence University Athletics Website lists Mike Szkodzinski and Pat McCadden as the hockey coaches.
Why does this matter now? When compared to major cities like Milwaukee, New York or Chicago, cases on the Lawrence Campus and in the Appleton area are relatively low. Relatively low positivity rates do not mean that Lawrence University is not at a constant risk of closing its doors should this kind of reckless behavior from students continue. These are students that live just outside the campus bubble, but these are still students that will be inevitably interacting with other students on campus.
This means that students who don’t have access to health care as well as those with pre-existing conditions are placed at an even higher risk, should they have interacted with a person who was knowingly breaking the rules. Regardless of whether or not you are personally interacting with these students, there is a high chance that someone you know has or will. That’s just how small the Lawrence campus is.
There are many students who come from historically marginalized communities and economically disadvantaged backgrounds that already find it difficult to peacefully and safely exist at a predominantly White institution like Lawrence University. In the U.S., a majority of Americans don’t have health insurance or access to adequate healthcare resources. Now, imagine how much more difficult it is to survive a cold, flu or, God forbid, a Coronavirus infection as a Black, Brown, Indigenous or other Person of Color (BIPOC).
Consider that a lack of healthcare insurance, access to proper healthcare resources and a pre-existing history of racist and discriminatory practices within our medical fields are still upheld today, thus jeopardize the lives of BIPOC people during this pandemic. Not to mention that colonial systems founded on Whiteness, and their structures that are woven into the very DNA of our medical system in the U.S., are an epidemic that still threatens the lives of BIPOC, disabled and LGBTQIA persons.
It is an undeniable fact that this disaster has illuminated many issues that have been plaguing the world for a very, very long time. I would like to remind the Lawrence community that many of you had no idea that racism was even still a thing or how violently it still affects BIPOC communities today until we all witnessed the gruesome deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Need I remind many of you that it wasn’t until BIPOC trauma was displayed on national television that many were newly awakened.
BIPOC patients have died of COVID-19-related complications at alarming rates when compared to the death toll of non-POC COVID-19 patients. Considering the very anti-Black, anti-POC, anti-Indigenous, and the generally anti-non-White-male history of the U.S. and a culture established on values that incentivize the selfishness and generally harmful individualistic practices and traditions, a party during a pandemic at Lawrence is not a particularly surprising or impressive reckless act. I expected it. I knew it would happen. That’s the saddest, most pathetic part of it all —that I expected it. Yet, somehow, I also expected kindness, grace and even compassion from my fellow peers, but a part of me also expected recklessness, carelessness and the general I-don’t-give-a-f@$#-attitude.
Some of your peers came back to campus for job security. Some came back to have better access to COVID resources, like testing. Some came back to have a stable learning environment. Others came back to get away from their parents. The point is, no matter the reason, it wasn’t an easy move or decision. These COVID-19 violations were done by a group of people that seem to have a complete disregard for the health of their peers and are apathetic to the struggles of those who are in positions that place them at a serious and dangerous disadvantage due to how the world interacts with them because of where they are from, the color of their skin or their socio-economic class. These actions are a display of the privilege that this group has.
Not only are they athletes that are protected by patriarchal collegiate cultural norms, but I am also imagining that the individuals involved are also White men. It is hard for me to imagine that a BIPOC young man could possibly have the audacity to act this way, but who knows, I might be wrong.
Be safe. Be wise. And don’t be an @$$h013. I want ALL of us to survive this. There are still many discussions to be had and a lot of work we must do to create a better world.
With lots o’ love and sarcasm —Carmen San Diego
Links- COVID Dashboard
If you would like more information to visit these links: https://covid-19-appleton.hub.arcgis.com and https://blogs.lawrence.edu/covid-19/
Higher-ed COVID Planning
If you would like to view the full letter please visit: https://universitycommunications-marketing.cmail19.com/t/ViewEmail/j/CDA028EA91618CA82540EF23F30FEDED/0AA3CAEEFE555EB71D419C9787CC9684