Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
On the first Friday night of the school year, I walked down Route 1 and witnessed a disturbingly lively bar scene. These bars were gross enough before the pandemic. Now, as students strut in and out of these establishments, they’re quickly becoming cesspools of the coronavirus. The self-centeredness of my fellow students astounds me; I’m angry, and I’m fed up. However, students breaking the “4 Maryland” guidelines can’t be blamed for displaying a trait they see day in and day out from their own university: selfishness.
The blame game is an easy one to play, but in reality, both students and the administration are responsible for the impending explosion of COVID-19 cases at this university. This university needs the money that tuition and dorms bring in, and students “need” a return to the typical college experience. Selfishness, both institutional and individual, will be the downfall of an attempted return to normalcy in College Park.
Let’s start with the institutional selfishness that this university so consistently demonstrates. This university chose to welcome back its students to dorms with communal bathrooms and apartments with non-refundable leases, despite the rise of COVID-19 cases. It did so for the same reason any institution of higher learning would: money. Dependent on tuition dollars and dorm fees, the university realized not having students come back was simply not a viable financial option for the university. Instead, kicking students out of their on-campus housing to make room for irresponsible, college-eager freshmen seemed like the right approach.
As the university indicated it was “safe” to return to the campus, students felt compelled to do so, displaying their own special form of selfishness. Hosting parties, going to happy hour and hanging out like normal are activities that make students’ college experience complete — and a virus that’s been marketed as something that only impacts those with pre-existing conditions won’t stop the fun.
It simply isn’t possible to keep students in College Park and control the spread of the coronavirus. For those who flaunt the rules, attending parties and bars maskless, infection is imminent. Yet our large university is more connected than it seems. So for those who are actually following the guidelines by staying within their pod and social distancing, infection grows more and more likely simply by virtue of how a college campus is set up to function.
This university’s experiment of bringing students back to the campus is going to fail, and it’s going to fail spectacularly. That failure is a result of individual needs being placed above the collective good, a tactic that doesn’t seem beneficial for the tens of thousands of people who call College Park home. It’s a reflection of this university’s need to save financial face and its students’ need to have fun with their friends at the expense of the entire community’s health.
It’s blatantly obvious: No students should be in College Park right now. Yet here we are, condemned by selfishness from both the university and its students. There’s going to be a shutdown of school, whether that’s in two days or two weeks. The mess that the debacle will cause is only another health and logistical nightmare that could have been avoided had this university just stayed closed or its students simply had behaved responsibly.
Maya Rosenberg is a junior journalism and public policy major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org