The Vikings set a new record

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As students have trickled back onto campus in the past two weeks, the hallways of our dorms have become animated with sounds.  In the mornings, I am greeted with a singer’s warmups echoing through one of my room’s walls, while the strums of a guitar ripples through another.  On my walk to the kitchen for a glass of water, I pass a computer lab with music stands in it, repurposed as a makeshift practice room.  Like the previous year, the melodies of the conservatory have been dispersed into isolated bedrooms, for at least a fifth of the term. 

With the Omicron variant ravaging through the world, it is no question that gathering is not safe at the moment.  Lawrence made the right decision to keep both curricular and co-curricular activities remote for an additional amount of time.  Although this has brought on a number of challenges for students, especially for those in the conservatory, any sacrifice necessary for safety is worth it – except for athletics, of course. 

While every single class, music ensemble, club, and organization has been meeting online this term, Lawrence’s sports teams have continued to practice in person.  If you ask me, this is an exceptionally logical decision.  If you had to pick one aspect of Lawrence to be the exception to a set of rules in place to mitigate a virus which spreads excellently through large groups of people in close contact with each other, wouldn’t you also choose the one set of activities that requires large groups of people to be in close contact with each other? 

Obviously, there should be an exception to regulations that determine such trivial things as whether we will get to have a single in-person class this term or how many members of our community will catch a debilitating virus.  Besides, now that the entire planet has had two years of experience with this virus, it is common knowledge that exceptions like this don’t do any harm.  If most of us actually do comply with the rules in place for a period of time, it will be more than enough to control the spread of the virus on campus.  We’ve seen this on a global scale – it’s exactly why this pandemic hasn’t lasted very long at all. 

I know that we are a world-class conservatory and that our degree-seeking musicians are missing out on critical opportunities to play with one another, but if sports teams couldn’t meet in person for two whole weeks, they too would miss out on these critical opportunities to play with one another.  We have our priorities straight, as most students come to Lawrence to grow their skills and knowledge in athletics and music is just a fun co-curricular activity to do on the side. 

If I ever had any doubts about Lawrence’s decision to make an exception for athletics, I certainly don’t have them anymore.  With a new record of 62 active cases (not including the hundreds of lost tests or the hundreds of students who have just arrived on campus), I am confident that if Lawrence were to continue letting athletics have a free pass to gather, there would be virtually no chance of sports teams accelerating the spread on campus.  Let’s just suppose, hypothetically, that an athlete does somehow become infected with the virus.  It isn’t like they have an increased risk of infecting the teammates with whom they exercise in close quarters.  Even if, miraculously, they somehow did infect other members on their team, it’s not like those people might spread the virus to their roommates or other members of the community who have been following the rules and doing things remotely.   

While putting in the time and money to rearrange my plans to return to campus a week later than scheduled was a real inconvenience, it is reassuring to know that during the additional week we were asked to stay home and be extremely cautious, Lawrence’s athletes were gathering.  Better yet, while most games were cancelled or postponed, a couple of games against other universities still proceeded.   

Sarcasm aside, throughout the pandemic it has been a common theme at both Lawrence and globally to make exceptions for some things, but not others.  While athletics are deeply important to many Lawrentians, I respectfully believe that their ability to gather is inconsistent with the rules that many of the arts at Lawrence are expected to follow.  Socially distanced and masked orchestras are able to follow many more safety regulations than unmasked basketball players coming into close contact with students from other universities.  Additionally, in music, art, and theater courses where in-person gathering is necessary to get the full extent of classes, at least 20% of that time is gone, while athletes didn’t have to miss out to the same extent.   

Regardless, I believe that with the current state of both the general pandemic and the university, we should all be giving our full effort to mitigate the spread on campus.