English Professor and Speaker of the Faculty Senate Simon Lewis shared the following message with students on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, regarding COVID-19 safety:
In my weekly e-mail to faculty last Friday, I had written that due to high levels of compliance with mask-wearing, etc., campus appeared to be no less safe than your average grocery store. As I left my office after writing those words, however, I ran into Student Government Association President Jeremy Turner, who shared disappointing information he had about fellow students’ plans for big parties over the weekend. Sure enough, on Saturday, in addition to reading President Hsu’s e-mail about student non-compliance with the College’s requirements for face coverings and social distancing and limits on social gatherings, I received several e-mails from faculty members deeply disturbed by what they had seen (and in some cases heard) downtown: large numbers of presumed students wandering off apparently primed to party.
Thus, it is not all that surprising, even though it is truly dispiriting, that our current COVID dashboard reveals such high numbers. (https://cofc.edu/back-on-the-bricks/covid-19-dashboard/).
As today’s news out of the Upstate about the first teen COVID-related death in the state reminds us, the current extent of the virus threatens us all. Although all are not equally vulnerable, nobody is immune. Collectively, the current extent of the virus threatens our ability to remain on campus at all, let alone to come back as we had hoped for Commencement in May. It even threatens our ability to return to normal in the fall.
All the world’s religions encourage care and compassion for our fellow human beings, and most have annual periods where adherents are expected to practice self-denial. I implore you all to consider the remaining 100 days of this semester as a kind of extended period of that kind, with the promise of a well-earned period of celebration waiting at the end, if we negotiate it well.
Alternatively, you could just be like the American bullfrog, who, when wildfire rages, doesn’t attempt to hop away from the flames but burrows deeper into the ground and emerges unscathed once the fire has passed.
You may not be persuaded by either of those analogies, but please: Just Be Careful. Accept your responsibility to yourself and everyone else around you. Observe all the precautions at all times and in all places, not just when in class or on campus. You have the power to curb or to prolong this pandemic. Whether we can come back safely to campus at the start of fall depends on you.
Professor of English and Speaker of the Faculty Senate
College of Charleston