The COVID-19 outbreak has brought on social media hysteria, a frenzy of emails from JMU administrators and, for some JMU students, plans for “Frog Week, part 2.”
JMU’s 1787 August Orientation, called Frog Week by many JMU students, has a reputation of upperclassmen partying before classes begin for the fall semester.
The university has chosen to move classes online, which will begin again March 23. The one week period between the end of spring break and the beginning of online classes has gained attention online as “Frog Week 2,” or another week of partying.
While a number of students may be planning to be responsible in this situation, several members of the JMU community, including concerned parents and alumni, appear to think that student partying is an inevitable outcome of the university’s decision.
“[Moving classes online] is actually ridiculous,” alumna Jessica Eckhoff (19) said in a Facebook comment. “Kids are just going to spend the whole time partying, being even closer than they would be if they were in class.”
In an email to all JMU students, Tim Miller, vice president for student affairs, urged students to follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and avoid large gatherings, reiterating the danger of a Frog Week, part 2.
“I need students to make responsible decisions, and not put themselves and other students in harm’s way for the sake of a party,” Miller said in the email.
The city of Harrisonburg is also “acting to revoke permits for mass outdoor social gatherings,” according to the email, meaning legal trouble for students who might decide to host an outdoor party.
“We had a handful [of social mass gathering permits] that had already been approved,” Mike Parks, director of communications for the city of Harrisonburg, said. “But, we revoked all those permits for events that are happening between earlier this week — when we made this decision — and April 5th, when we’ll reassess, and we aren’t issuing any permits until then.”
However, many students remaining in Harrisonburg don't seem to have plans to go out. Senior roommates psychology major Megan Haan and political science major Katherine Weems plan to stay in Harrisonburg as they take their classes online, and while that may include some socializing, the two said they are following safety guidelines and avoiding large gatherings.
“I’m staying to spend time with my friends because it’s senior year,” Haan said. “But I realized I haven't been to a frat party in two years, so I’m not going to start in the middle of a global pandemic.”
Weems is also a student employee, which is another reason she plans to stay. For her, along with other students, it’s safer for them to not return home.
“I need and want to work as long as it’s healthy,” Weems said. “And my parents both have compromised immune systems, so it’s healthier for them if I stay [in Harrisonburg].”
Junior social work major Kelsey Wiley was also planning to stay in Harrisonburg for work. But since she primarily works with young children, her workplace closed this week, much to the relief of Wiley’s parents.
“My mom definitely didn't want me to stay,” Wiley said. “She did say if I were to get sick, it would probably be better if I were at home with my parents instead of being at school alone.”
Wiley also explained her concern for doing her part to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and said she thinks that students planning parties for the upcoming weeks haven’t thought it through yet.
“I don’t think a lot of students truly understand the severity of what is going on,” Wiley said. “It’s the spread of it that [they] aren’t realizing that can affect many others who might not be able to live through it.”
While according to The New York Times clubs and bars across the country are still packed with young people, as the situation escalates, the likelihood of a Frog Week 2.0 could dwindle.
“I really don’t think many [students] will do that,” Wiley said about a second Frog Week.
Haan and Weems agree that Frog Week 2.0 is likely more of a social media joke than a reality, stressing the importance of staying safe and following JMU and CDC guidelines during this time.
CNN reiterated the fact that viral illnesses spread especially quickly on college campuses. JMU has canceled in-person classes to keep its students, faculty and staff safe. Large parties may be detrimental to prevention efforts in the face of a global pandemic.
“Personally, I think people are joking but won't actually do anything,” Weems said. “I like to party as much as the next person, but this is a pandemic. I can refrain for a while.”
Contact Taylor Sarlo at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.