This past weekend, the quarantine placed on Cohort One boarders at Andover was lifted, bringing joy to hundreds of students as they were allowed to mingle with friends from all across campus for the first time in months. Even with the quarantine period over, students were still expected to maintain social distancing and masking outside of their pods to reduce the spread of Covid-19 on campus. However, despite these regulations and the consequences for not following these rules being frequently repeated by faculty members, many students have largely ignored these guidelines at school-sponsored events like the Senior class “fresh air fun” social, and inside dining tents across campus. To the dismay of many, students of different pods and dorms were observed in large groups in close contact with each other during these events, with campus adults in attendance not intervening despite the breaking of social distancing guidelines.
After the return of Cohort One day students, it has become increasingly important for the student body not to develop a false sense of security from the lack of detected cases. Although confining boarding students to campus may help decrease the likelihood of an outbreak, it ultimately will come down to whether students strictly adhere to the precautions set in place for their own safety. As students, we must hold ourselves and each other accountable as we look out for the safety of others, including faculty members and families living on campus, Commons employees, OPP employees, and others who work and live in spaces we inhabit. Furthermore, the ability to maintain lax attitudes about masking and social distancing reflects the privilege inherent to predominantly white institutions like Andover: BIPOC communities have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic due to systemic racism in health care and the economic recession.
While students must take accountability for their actions and maintain social distancing on campus, it is also important that faculty members supervising student activities must enforce these rules with equity among all students and be more clear about the real costs of not social distancing. Those who do not follow social distancing guidelines have been threatened with dismissal from campus in several emails sent by administrators, but when faculty members fail to break up large groups of students huddled together, these consequences appear to be simply a scare tactic. Instead, the administration must emphasize that the real consequence of rule violations or an outbreak is more than students simply being sent home: the lives of those most vulnerable are on the line.
Looking at the current statistics, it is clear that this pandemic is far from over, with the world surpassing one million Covid-19 related deaths this week and over 200,000 of these deaths belonging to the U.S. Consequently, the campus community must act accordingly, because following social-distancing rules is not simply a matter of inconvenience. It is a matter of life or death.
This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian, vol. CXLIII