For months, we have been living in what will likely be the biggest historical event of our lifetimes.
The death toll of the coronavirus is approximately now about 58 times higher than that of 9/11. Children are starting their first day of kindergarten in masks. Weddings are being streamed on Facebook Live. Sorority recruitment is happening across the nation on Zoom. And for Florida Southern students, our semesters have been uprooted by the College’s decision to move 50% of the student body online, leaving the other 50% to attend classes in an empty, unsettled campus.
The outrage from FSC students and parents alike has been great. Though the way this outrage has been expressed has been, in some instances, unkind, it’s still understandable. It’s frustrating to hear that your last semester is going to happen from your childhood bedroom. It’s upsetting to be starting college with half of your fellow Mocs missing from the scene. The feelings of anger, confusion, frustration, and sadness are felt by many and are completely valid.
In spite of how valid these feelings may be, though, I think we need to have a frank discussion about our role in all of this. I want more than anything for all of us to get to come back to a healthy and safe campus in the spring, but it’s on us.
It’s on us to think critically about the choices we make in the fall. It’s on us to say no to events or situations that potentially spread this virus. Group dates to the Joinery, standing in a crowded line at Born ‘n Bread, attending parties, having everyone over to your apartment for brunch, wearing your mask improperly in class—these actions have deadly consequences. It’s on us to bear in mind these consequences and choose safety over our social lives.
It’s on us to respect the boundaries of our friends and peers. It’s on us to love the people in our lives by not disrespecting their wishes. Putting our masks on when our friends ask, making sure someone is okay with hugging, keeping our distance from our sorority sisters when they take a step away from us—all of these actions tell the people in our lives that we care about their health, their safety, and their friendship.
It’s on us to think of others before ourselves. It’s on us to remember that our choices can severely hurt people we love, even if we don’t see it at the time. Laughing with your friends downtown may be the highlight of your week, but will no doubt but the worst part of your year if your roommate is on a ventilator a month later. Refusing to wear a mask in Publix may bring temporary comfort during your shopping trip, but could result in your cashier dying alone in Lakeland Regional without you ever hearing about it. Your lack of social distancing in your suite before you all walk to the caf may not seem like a big deal in the moment, but could be a very big deal if we get an email announcing the passing of one of our campus’ precious caf ladies. It’s on us to care about the vulnerable among us more than we care about ourselves.
I don’t want to fear-monger. I don’t want to make it seem like this semester will be a disaster. I also don’t want to make it seem like this semester will be a waste, either. I personally believe this semester can be the most joy-filled season of our lives thus far if we learn how to engage with each other in new, creative, meaningful ways. But I think this, still, is on us.
Florida Southern College is a unique, special place. The student body is bonded around the weirdest little quirks and traditions (we all have pictures of the Waterdome ducks in our camera rolls, right?). We care about each other, and we pride ourselves in our strong community.
As you move in or set up your home study space in the next few weeks, I implore you to think of our sweet community, think about the potential of another separated semester, and act accordingly. If our habits don’t change, our chances of being together again will not, either.
It’s on us. And I do not think there is another student body out there more capable of making change than the students of Florida Southern College.