It's not the senior year that we dreamed of. In fact, it's nowhere close.
Somehow even after turning 21 the Providence Police are still monitoring us, but this time to make sure we are socially distancing. We should be looking forward to SRW week, homecoming, the fall concert, and commencement week, instead of concentrating on staying healthy and avoiding infecting someone, right? To put it nicely, it sucks. We can't change what has happened nor can we will the virus out of existence. But what we can change is how we behave. COVID-19 continues to be an invisible attacker and we aren't as invincible as we'd like to think. So how do we continue being social amid a pandemic?
At Providence College (PC), the seniors are offered off campus housing on Eaton and the surrounding streets, one could compare it to Greek-row. Most seniors, including myself, jumped at the opportunity to live off campus for the independence, opportunity to live with friends, and the access to parties. Per our yearlong lease agreement, we can move in mid-June or what students affectionately refer to as, Lease-Week. A week of celebration as we finally move into the houses we signed sophomore year, filling our role as seniors at PC, and this year, reuniting with friends who were abroad and after a long-quarantined separation.
However, this year was different. The past 4 months have been less than ideal due to the pandemic. People are already done with 2020 and we are only halfway through. Some students did not return to campus after spring break, while others study abroad experience was cut short. A lot of us did not get accepted to internships or were told the programs we worked hard to earn were cancelled. We are tired. We are upset. But I'm sorry to say, it's not over.
On Wednesday June 17th, 2020 two days after the official move in date the rising seniors on Eaton Street received an email from the Director of Community Standards. Just two days in and we were already being disciplined and warned that,"failure to abide by the State mandates regarding this health crisis and section 22 of the Providence College Code of Conduct will result in disciplinary action by [his] office." The Office of Community Standards email may have been harsh, but they're not wrong and someone had to say it.
"Violation of Section 22 a) regarding the wearing of facemasks or other face coverings"
Remember, the masks are to protect us when we can't socially distance. So, by not wearing a mask and not socially distancing, well I think we are old enough to know that's irresponsible. Do you have to wear a facemask while hanging out in your friend's house? No. But should you still be conscious of the amount of people you are around? Yes. Because while you may be taking cautious measures in public and in private, not everyone around you is.
We have never had to wear face masks in public and for a country with so many "freedoms", it feels restricting. One friend confided in me saying, "I feel like I'm judged for wearing a mask in public, and I'm judged if I don't." I felt the same way coming back from studying abroad in Vietnam, a country where everyone wore a mask, then returning to America where it was the first time for most people.
I encourage you to rationalize it in your mind. It's not like wearing a Democratic or Republican badge. Instead it acknowledges that you are putting your health and the health and safety of others around you first because wearing a mask has the potential to prevent someone from getting sick and dying. If the scientific experts are incorrect, then the only inconvenience is covering our mouth with a piece of fabric. Which seems the very least we can do. Masks do not cure coronavirus or make you immune, but they sure as hell decrease your chance of catching it.
Normalize wearing masks and having spare extras on you so that once you're done drinking or socializing, wear it. They aren't meant to be the latest fashion trend, they are meant to save lives.
"Violation of Section 22 b) regarding gatherings of more than 15 people"
Socially distancing doesn't mean we stop talking to each other and hanging out. Instead, let's be appreciative that we are out of the house, finally surrounded by people our age, and I'm going to take a wild guess and say you're living with your friends. If you're not, now is the perfect opportunity to get to know each other.
Another way to be safer is by not sharing drinks because it increases the spread of COVID-19. Also, God only knows how many germs we are already spreading and living in as college students so we probably should avoid doing that with or without a pandemic.
Try to put extra distance between yourself and larger groups of friends. I know we all want to be together, but there are ways to socially distance and still be social. Maybe avoid gathering in the group of 50+ kids behind the Eaton houses, limit larger outdoor gatherings to the weekends, stay near the edge of the crowd, or be prepared to go home early if needed.
Remember to wash your hands when you get home and avoid touching your face. If you choose to be in groups, at least remember these easy tips once you get home.
"Section 22 was added to the Providence College student code of conduct with the hope that students would understand the serious nature of this health crisis. Anytime a student, staff or faculty member at Providence College fails to abide by these mandates, that individual is effectively putting the lives of others and themselves in danger."
As a 21-year-old college senior, I know how tempting and difficult it is to stay socially distanced. Now that we are no longer living under the same roof as our family we are living by our own rules. No more checking with our parents to see if we can go to the grocery store. No more worrying about contracting COVID-19 and bringing it home to our older parents. But we are still as susceptible as we were back at home.
With our new freedom off-campus comes responsibility. Although you or I might not be showing symptoms, we can still be carriers and can put others at risk.
- close contact with an infectious person
- contact with droplets from an infected person's cough or sneeze (if you are withinwo large steps of an infected person)
- touching objects or surfaces (like doorknobs, sink taps and tables) that have cough or sneeze droplets from an infected person, and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.
Treat living off campus to some degree like living at home with your family. Remember you're sharing space with other students and your actions directly affect them as well.
It's not guarantee that school will open this coming fall. There's already a spike in the southern states that are reopening such as South Carolina, Florida, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Kentucky, New Mexico, North Carolina, Mississippi, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Puerto Rico. Although we aren't in the south, these new statistics prove that socially distancing is not over yet.
In fact, a second wave is highly probable.
I know it's easy to disregard what the administrators are saying because they aren't college students whose senior year is slowly being stripped. However, their job is to stay informed on the current state of the country and to keep us healthy and advise us to be safe. I don't know about you, but I'm glad PC is trying to stay open in the first place. I don't pay thousands of dollars a year for online classes.
"This is not business as usual; we are in an unprecedented health crisis and without your cooperation, Providence College, your fellow students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding community have so much to lose."
So, when are we going to start caring? Why is it that a sense of urgency and importance only comes when it directly affects us?I don't know who needs to hear this, but COVID-19 is alive and rampant as ever. It is not the flu or a hoax as Trump refers to it, but a deadly disease that is killing thousands of people around the world.
But we have the choice. It is a privilege to stay inside and socially distance. You may say it's not fair, which it's not, but it's being "not fair" to everyone. For example, my brother's hours were cut, my mom's summer school program was cancelled, and as a single mother with a salary of a school nurse, yeah, we needed that money, and my senior year is going to look a lot different than I had dreamed. To put our position as safe and healthy off-campus seniors in perspective, I remind you of how millions are being affected:
- We are not a part of the statistic of thousands of people dead from COVID-19.
- There are people who do not feel safe in their own home.
- There are frontline healthcare workers risking their lives every day.
- There are homeless people without the job, food, or housing security to protect themselves.
- There are thousands of foreclosed business.
- The unemployment rate is 13.3% (as of May 2020)
- There are people struggling to put food on the table for their families.
- The Brown, Black, and Indigenous communities are being hit harder due to systemic racism- as seen in the large number disproportionally affected due to a lack of healthcare and other social service resources.
The list goes on.
All I ask is that you put your situation into perspective. Life is not normal, and it will not go back to normal. To quote my mom, "Acknowledge it and get over it." The sooner we accept the new normal, the sooner we can move on in our lives and focus on what we DO have going for us:
- We are back at PC, a place and school we love.
- We are safe.
- We are healthy.
- We are out of the house from being cooped up with our families.
- We have food on the table and (for some of us) booze in our cups.
- We will graduate from a respected college with a degree we worked tirelessly for.
2020 has proven a challenging and unusual time. Not one expected our senior year to play out like this. The sooner we accept that our senior year will not be normal, the sooner we can adapt our behavior to make sure we still have a fun but safe senior year. Epictetus said, "We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them."
None of us have ever lived through a pandemic, and it is thanks to our efforts that we will keep ourselves and the RI community safe. Your actions matter.
So, let's set the precedent by showing we can still safely party and be social during a pandemic. It's time we hold ourselves accountable. Who knows, maybe if we act responsibly now, the Class of 2022 and 2023 won't have to worry about their senior year being compromised and that can be thanks to us, the Class of 2021.