masks on bowman

A Clemson student wears a mask on Bowman Field.

Well, Tigers, we’ve done it! We have completed the first full week of online classes from the comfort of our homes, our apartments and even our cars. Challenges vary from faulty wifi connections to shipping that seems to take weeks, but little by little, we’re getting through this. But what happens when we “get through this”? Where will that lead us? Where will we be when Sept. 21 finally arrives, and we’re allowed back on campus?

Well, if the current state of the Clemson area is any indication, nowhere good.

I’ve heard claims about wanting to return to school and cries that forsake Zoom and every other method of online learning, but what I’m hearing and what I’m seeing never seem to match up. You, fellow students, say you want to return to campus and study at Cooper Library again, and I hear your voices. Yet I also see you gathering to have a day at the pool, not a mask in sight and social distancing nonexistent. You say that you can’t wait to return to the classroom and meet your classmates face-to-face, yet I see groups of you playing pickup basketball games at the local apartment complexes. You say that you want to spend the semester in the presence of your friends, but I see you spending plenty of time with your friends already as you visit downtown, without a mask or a care for the pandemic we’re currently in.

Our campus administration and the signs hung all along Old Greenville Highway tell us that we should “be part of the solution,” yet with those signs in the background, hordes of unmasked students are still gathering on Bowman, making our campus appear like it hasn’t been shut down and like the school year has not been irrevocably altered as the result of a deadly pandemic.

Many argue that COVID-19 isn’t deadly to people our age, but what happens to the elderly people living in the Clemson area if irresponsible students cause a mass outbreak? What about immunocompromised students? What about perfectly healthy students who recover from COVID-19, but suffer lung, heart and other health problems for the rest of their lives? We don’t know how each individual will be impacted by COVID-19 or how it will spread, but assuming that everything will be fine when things have not been “fine” since March is not only irresponsible; it is also ignorant of the community our university is nestled in and the people and other students who are concerned about their health.

Of course, this is all in relation to off-campus activities and students. The idea of reopening campus and bringing all remaining students back to the area awakens the idea of an entirely different beast.

We compare ourselves to N.C. State and jokingly call them our North Carolina equivalent when we play them each year in the Textile Bowl, but now we claim to be different from them as they discover clusters in their residence halls and send students home. Alabama is doing no better, and countless other universities—who have similar preventional measures as Clemson, only applied a month earlier—are one-by-one finding out that they are not able to be an exception.

Does Clemson University truly believe itself to be the exception, when the campus is not even open yet, but parties still rage and masks are only present in exceedingly staged Instagram pictures? I do not have the answer to this, but I truly hope that the administration ponders all sides of the situation before summoning students back to campus, only to send them away again two weeks later.  

It is up to us, as students, to be part of the solution. It is up to us to wear our masks, to limit our in-person interactions and to think before we do something that could make this pandemic worse. However, it is also up to our administration to recognize when the steps being taken are not enough and when too many students are not being the solution, but only exacerbating the problem.

Does Clemson truly have what it takes to “be part of the solution”? There’s only one way to find out, Tigers. But first, at least try to wear your masks.

I hope you enjoyed this oped. If you agree or disagree with me on this topic and would like to contact me to share your own opinion, or if you would like to request any future topics for me to write about, please do so at opinions.thetigernews@gmail.com.

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