Ithaca College announced its plan to reopen for Spring 2021, leaving its community and students with nothing but questions. One of the biggest questions is will the college pull the plug on in-person classes again? Allowing students to come back does not come without risks, especially in the midst of a pandemic. With COVID-19 running rampant, everyone is connected in a way that we never have been before. The decision to hang out with a friend, kiss someone at a party, party in general or smoke socially was not something we ever had to think about twice until now. By bringing back approximately 6,000 socially starved students, the safety of Ithaca’s community would be put in the hands of the college and all its students. I do not believe the college should reopen for Spring 2021, but we need to be prepared for all scenarios. If the college reopens, the students will be responsible for the safety of Ithaca and need to return with compassion, treating the community as if it were their own grandparents.
I’ve seen my own community thrown through the depths of fear and paranoia at the hands of college students. Over quarantine, I worked at the most popular cafe in Oneonta, New York. With the return of college students, I watched as Oneonta went from two active cases to a startling 105 in just a few days. By the third week of classes, over 700 students had tested positive for COVID-19. This could have been easily avoided had the students been more aware of the ripple that their actions would cause. Videos of crowded houses spread through Twitter and showed startling numbers of people cramming themselves into parties — no masks, no social distancing. I watched this outbreak plague my small upstate town and break the trust between its community members and its college students. Longtime customers, consumed by fear, refused to step foot into the cafe. We as students need to come back with an understanding that our actions will ripple throughout the community. Ithaca prides itself on how closely its students and locals work together, and I would hate to see this unity be thrown into division.
How can a college send socially starved young adults into an environment where they are used to constant interaction and expect them not to do as such? Cold weather means indoor gatherings, and the time of year warrants flu season and also a rise in cases. I believe the smart decision is to halt reopening and keep students home. However, we are currently on track to go back and need to be prepared to handle it correctly. If this happens, students need to join together to avoid the catastrophe that I personally witnessed happen in my community.
Watching Oneonta be plagued by the virus has given me an inside look at the harsh reality of just how reckless college students can be. We can change this outcome. We can wear masks, limit social gatherings to only an inner circle, continue to get tested regularly and be smart about how we act without negatively impacting the entire community.
If Ithaca College follows through with its plan to reopen, I hope its students would come back with respect for the community and the understanding that their actions affect more people than just themselves.