By Alaina Perdon
Elm Staff Writer
Operations have nearly returned to normal for the fall semester at Washington College. Students are once again living on campus and attending classes in person.
Before being allowed to move into their residence halls or off-campus homes, students were required to undergo gateway COVID-19 testing. This, combined with an approximately 90% vaccination rate amongst students and faculty, provides a welcome sense of security in these first uncertain weeks on campus. One can assume our school is presently COVID-19-free.
However, we cannot allow this to lull us into complacency. Our actions now will set the precedent for the remainder of the semester and determine whether we can ever fully return to normal.
“Given the rise of the Delta variant, things are still uncertain. Now, it is definitely important to follow the rules to make sure our semester starts off safely,” senior Bryce Robertson said. “I think what is important to remember is that if we start off with tight restrictions and find that our community is safe, we can loosen those restrictions over time.”
While we may be granted more freedoms as a reward for following protocol, it will be impossible to reverse any harm caused by a lackadaisical start to the semester. Good behavior now grants us the possibility of a brighter future.
With COVID-19 cases still rapidly on the rise due to the prominence of the Delta variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommends wearing face masks and maintaining at least three feet of distance between individuals indoors. These regulations have been incorporated into the College’s COVID-19 safety guidelines. It is our duty as students of WC, as well as residents of Chestertown, to follow these rules for the safety of our community.
It is easy for many of us to disregard WC’s COVID-19 protocols. To those who are able-bodied, in good health, and vaccinated, the threat of the virus seems minimal. After over 18 months of separation, we are eager to return to the fraternity parties and intramural soccer games that trademark the college experience.
However, we need to be concerned about those around us as well. When faced with an aggressively spreading virus, our actions could gravely alter the lives of others if we misstep. Moreover, should COVID-19 proliferate through our college community, we will lose any
chance at a complete return to normal since restrictions will need to be tightened in response.
Thus, it is important for us to be willing to adapt our usual activities.
Robertson serves as the judicial vice president of Kappa Sigma, a fraternity he says is trying to make the best of the situation.
Kappa Sigma hosted a barbecue on Sept. 3. “We are doing everything in our power to still promote social events while still keeping everyone safe,” Robertson said.
But the danger does not lie solely in social events, nor does the responsibility to uphold community safety lie solely on the student body. Faculty and staff should be adhering to and enforcing COVID-19 guidelines with as much, if not greater, diligence.
In practice, this may include professors offering alternate options should students feel uncomfortable or be unable to attend in person classes.
Senior Carlee Berkenkemper explained that her anthropology class meets on Zoom one day each week.
“Dr. [Julie] Markin sent out a survey to gauge our comfort with learning in the pandemic,” Berkenkemper said. “When more than half the class expressed concerns with in person learning, she decided to make Friday class online.”
Like Kappa Sigma’s outdoor social events, this adaptation allows for some return to normal while still ensuring everyone’s safety and comfort.
The fact that we still have restrictions in place is understandably frustrating after more than an entire academic year spent removed from normal college life; however, these guidelines are put in place to protect us. Following the rules now sets the precedent for a safe semester and, hopefully, will allow us to regain more freedom as time progresses.