This Is Not Supposed To Be Our College Experience

Annie Sinert, Opinion's Editor

This is not supposed to be our college experience.

Last March, Clark students received an email telling us that due to the worsening COVID-19 virus, we had ten days to pack up our entire lives and move back home. Almost immediately after reading that email, my friends and I made a mad-dash to the Bistro to use up our saved dining dollars for the semester. Around an hour later, surrounded by trays of sushi and freal milkshakes, we sat in a circle taking turns calling our parents to tearfully discuss return-travel plans.

At the time, despite daily frightening news reports detailing the intensifying crises unfolding in China and Italy, it never crossed our minds that a parallel disaster had the potential to manifest within our borders. We foolishly chose to place our trust in fleeting – and later, ironic – assumptions of American exceptionalism. We chose to believe that “it would never get that bad” here. We naively believed that there was no way something so alarming and dismal could ever transpire in our “great” and “advanced” country.

Fast forward a year later, what was once referred to as our “new normal,” is our normal. We don masks – often, two – everytime we leave our rooms. We subconsciously wash our hands for longer periods of time than we once might have before. We attend classes and club meetings virtually from our computers. As this is all happening, students living on campus walk to the Kneller every three days to shove a q-tip up our noses to ensure that we haven’t contracted the deadly virus. These once far-fetched procedures and blueprints are now a mundane part of our day-to-day normal.

I do want to mention here that I am, in no way, criticizing the Clark Administration in their handling of the pandemic. I, like many others, genuinely feel safe being on campus and am incredibly grateful for the precautionary measures that have been put in place to maintain our safety. Many other schools across the country have not taken such drastic action and I feel exceptionally lucky and fortunate to attend one that has.

However despite all of that, this is still not supposed to be our college experience. 

We are supposed to be able to go into the Main South community and try new restaurants, without the underlying fear that poor social-distancing restraints could lead to infection. We are supposed to be able to nonchalantly enjoy the annual Spree Day this spring, instead of having it be cancelled for the second time in a row. We are supposed to be able to spend our weekends exploring Worcester’s street fairs and flea markets, rather than stay cooped-up in our rooms out of anxiety and adherence to the University’s rigid regulations and guidelines. 

We aren’t supposed to be so petrified and terror-stricken by even the notion of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected mental and physical health for millions. We aren’t supposed to personally know someone, or know of someone, who’s life was taken by this merciless and ruthless virus. We aren’t supposed to have become so desensitized to an ever-rising death toll that it’s downright unethical. We aren’t supposed to be living in constant fear.

This is not supposed to be our college experience.

And perhaps worst of all, the reality of all of this is that the blame for this disaster does not fall onto one singular person. Sure we can of course place some deserved culpability on the bigoted monster that we allowed into the once revered and respected Oval Office, as well as some on the imbeciles that chose to believe his deceptive fabrication of the virus as a “hoax.” We can denounce America’s deeply-rooted reprehensible institutional capitalist economy and we can even incriminate and expose our friends and neighbors for selfishly attending non-socially-distanced gatherings. 

But the truth of the matter is that scientists have been predicting a catastrophic pandemic like this for decades. COVID-19 did not appear unanticipatedly – it was only a matter of time. If our government and elected officials heeded the warnings and taken provisions antecedently, maybe the past year would have played out differently. Maybe it wouldn’t have. It is simply impossible to know.

And additionally, there isn’t anything we as individuals can do to make coronavirus magically go away. All we can do is continue strict adherence to the Clark Commitment, continue being consciously vigilant and careful in our actions, and get vaccinated when we are eligible. If we don’t, it will only prolong the feasible return to some semblance of normalcy.

A return to what our college experience is supposed to be.