The day of the protest to keep students on campus, the most significant commotion on the Quad was a casual game of frisbee.
When the clock on Wilson Hall struck noon — the event’s scheduled start — no great horde appeared; there was no outcry for change, no demand for answers. Alternatively, some 15 minutes later, two girls materialized, protest signs in hand. Greeted by a discouraging calm, they abandoned the scene, haphazardly trashing their handiwork along the way.
The Sept. 2 demonstration, during which nothing seemed to go according to plan, was an idea meant to oppose JMU’s coronavirus management — policy which suffered from the same problem. The plan, surely, wasn’t to close within a week of the school year’s start.
Yet, whatever’s to blame — the thoughtless eagerness of some to party in a pandemic or the school’s semi-indifference toward COVID-19 — one thing remains clear: at this point, sending students home is more irresponsible than keeping them here.
To quote those crumbled signs — coincidentally quoting Anthony Fauci — “It’s the worst thing you can do.”
Speaking on “The Today Show,” Fauci explained that students should be “sequestered enough from other students,” without going home so as to avoid contamination beyond the campus community.
It’s commonsensical, yet with classes going online, the nearly 7,000 freshly arrived JMU residents were required to move out by Labor day.
It’s not only the terribly real danger of increasing infections. Some students may have traveled from out of state. Some may have bad home situations. Most students seem concerned about refunds.
Freshman Andrew Jordan, one of the few who came to the Quad awaiting a chance to ventilate his frustrations, is worried about what’s next. At home, he doesn’t have good internet. He said, “I won’t be able to take classes, so I potentially have to drop out if I have to go home.”
To give some minimal credence to JMU, a week since the announcement, an abundance of people have been allowed to stay. Yet, how these exemptions were granted is questionable and hints at a hasty transition.
There’s no easy solution. With almost half of the university’s isolation beds in use, the school is ill-equipped to handle an even larger outbreak. For JMU, sending people home may seem like a tempting way to ease the pressure.
Yet, with this being an irresponsible option, other steps can –– and need –– to be taken: enforce strict and real social distancing in dining halls. Don’t host events that allow for large gatherings. Be serious about sincerely punishing those who party. Check the LiveSafe app.
Basically, do what the university promised to do.
Nevertheless, as of now, JMU has proven unable to maintain even a basic standard to conserve the community’s health. Unfortunately, it may fall on the students to put pressure on the school — a pressure it cannot ignore. With people dying all over the world, the student body deserves a methodical approach.
Still, when asked why no one had shown up to the protest, Dylan Gnapey, Jordan’s companion, cited some of his colleagues’ reaction to demonstrating: “Oh, I don’t do confrontation, you know, I can’t do this.”
Sadly, confrontation is unavoidable, though what’s being confronted remains to be decided: COVID-19 or JMU’s irrational policies.
Filip De Mott is a junior journalism and international affairs major. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.