Dear Editor, I am writing in response to the opinion piece published on Oct. 5, 2021, titled “COVID-19: Does SU Really Care?” by Emily Dziennik.
I was shocked while reading this piece, I could not believe that a student was advocating for a return to the conditions of the 2020-2021 year, a time I’m sure all of us would agree was the most difficult of our academic lives. The student claimed that professors and students are “forced to be here in person,” but doesn’t this imply that a substantial portion of the SU community was fighting for an online option to remain in place? College students and faculty across the country wanted this academic year to be a return to normal, which was especially evident here at home by the initial plan to have a mask-free environment for vaccinated individuals for the fall semester.
The author speaks of “cleaning my laptop and water bottle with Lysol wipes,” an extreme and unnecessary step as it is statistically rare for COVID to spread through surfaces. I can understand still worrying about the risks of COVID, but we are in a much better place than last year. If you truly feel unsafe on campus, there is always the option to take a gap year and return when COVID becomes less of a concern. No one is “forced” to be here.
The author said that SU has “regressed to what campus looked like in spring 2020,” only now “we know what works to prevent [the] spread, we just aren’t doing it.” This is just not true. Of course, masks are still required indoors across campus. SU knows that vaccination is the key to fighting the spread of COVID. Seeing as the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, per an August article in The Philadelphia Inquirer, “maintains that its schools would need legislative approval to require vaccinations,” the most they can do is continue to offer on-campus vaccination clinics. I believe that vaccinations should be mandated as the selfishness of those on-campus and throughout Pennsylvania that refuse to do the simple, safe task of getting vaccinated continues this now preventable pandemic, but that seems unlikely to happen.
I wholeheartedly agree with this author’s claim that SU has “a weak mask mandate students don’t follow.” Every day, I see maskless students in Reisner common areas and have seen Freshens employees in casual conversation with maskless male students who clearly don’t care about their active violation. Dining services staff already have enough on their plate with staffing shortages, but they must be stronger in enforcing the mask requirement.
SU has not handled COVID perfectly, but no one has. Canceling “big on-campus events,” putting “social distancing measures back in place in all classrooms” and reducing the number of seats in dining halls would unnecessarily prolong our suffering. Shippensburg University is moving forward; there’s no reason to look back.