Opinion | Students, we need to keep each other safe

By Genna Edwards, Senior Staff Columnist

It’s Star Wars Episode 9 —The Perilous Return to Campus.

I won’t be going to any in-person classes this fall. Phew, I said it. I would love to, of course, but here’s the deal plan and simple — Pitt’s return plan is, well, delusional. And I don’t trust y’all.

Students aren’t going to self-quarantine for two unsupervised weeks (key word — unsupervised). Students aren’t going to act properly in general, in large part due to the lack of clear and smart planning on the University’s part. The point is, no matter how well most students handle the arrival back, there will always be the few that ruin it for the rest of us.

COVID-19 is an all-or-nothing game. Either we all work hard to mitigate risk to our fellow peers, faculty and staff, or one wrong cough and we’re done for. Our campus’ social network is wide and confusing. Like six degrees of Kevin Bacon, somehow the virus will get to you.

I’d love to urge the University to, well, not reopen, but I am but one small lad whose words won’t reach Chancellor Patrick Gallagher’s rich, rich ears. Unfortunately, universities in this country are largely focused on bringing in money, like tuition dollars and on-campus housing payments, and that’s why we’re seeing so much outright ignorance and blind hope when it comes to the reopening plan for the fall. Money over people, greed over common human decency — but that’s a rant about late-stage capitalism for another day.

I’d also love to tell everyone to just stay home, but first-year students are already receiving arrival details and those ridiculous hotels-turned-student-housing have already been lined up. It’s too late. I’m writing my will as we speak. (I want my corpse lowered from the ceiling while Smash Mouth’s “All Star” blasts through speakers, please.)

With the impending doom of thousands of students from all over the country returning to our already rising-in-cases county in mere weeks, here are my ideas on how we can all protect each other as best we can. I’d put money on it that we’ll have an outbreak within two weeks and we’ll go all virtual, but until then the goal is to stay as safe as we can under the circumstances.

First off, for the love of a God I don’t believe in, wear the dang mask. There’s no use arguing with anti-maskers at this point, so I’ll lay it out as so many have already done — if the mask works, you can save lives, and if it doesn’t work, it’s at worst a minor inconvenience. Easy. Done.

Don’t prance around hooking up with whoever you want under the guise that we’re in our late teens or early twenties and the virus may not have as adverse effects on us. People our age have indeed been hospitalized and died. You don’t know who’s immunocompromised or whose roommate or friend is immunocompromised. Just don’t download Tinder. There are so many other reasons not to download Tinder but, hey, here’s a public health reason!

Don’t go to the bars. I don’t care if they open back up. I don’t care if you are so thirsty you’re about to shrivel up and die in the middle of the South Side. Bars and restaurants are a major reason Allegheny County’s cases went up again. Don’t be those people.

If you’re going to an in-person class, be more mindful than you’ve ever been before. Our professors and staff are the ones most at risk here, and I hate that they are having to weigh whether to step foot on campus. This is not about you — this is about them. Be compassionate, wear the mask, wash your hands, don’t go to class if you feel even the tiniest tickle in your throat. I’d say don’t go to in-person classes at all, ideally. I sure as heck am not. Their lives depend on it.

As much as you’re going to want to party, don’t. You will hear the commotion in South Oakland, as I already have, and you need to ignore it. To the people hosting these parties, I don’t even know what to say to you. I doubt you’re reading this as that would require working brain cells, but if you are, please cut it out. Some eager first-year students are going to show up, drink your subpar jungle juice, and then infect their elderly stats teacher. If you don’t want blood on your hands, shut it down.

Practice social distancing. I know we’re all excited to be back in the same timezone as our friends, but there’s no need to hug your homies when you spot them in front of Cathy. Blow them a kiss from afar. Tell them they look smashing in their new kicks. I get that we’re all horny, but no touching. No. Touching.

In general, just be kind. Think about all the other people with whom we share Pittsburgh. As students, this isn’t our city. We need to be even more careful — the lives of locals are at stake, the people who work at the grocery stores and gas stations. The people who clean our classrooms. That family down the block with the adorable four-year-old. This whole situation is wildly unfair to all of them and shouldn’t ever have happened in the first place, but as I said, it’s too late.

Let’s do as much as we can to keep each other safe. We do indeed owe it to each other. 

Genna Edwards writes about culture, media and gender for The Pitt News. You can reach her at [email protected].