The rules that Brandeis has put in place in response to COVID-19 are very effective, in theory. These rules are superficially very stringent and there are frequent modifications to these rules to stay up-to-date on new information. Some of these rules include wearing a mask while on campus, limiting the capacity of public spaces and limiting large gatherings within dorms.
These rules are very effective in places like classrooms and the library, which prove that strict management works for enforcing the guideline. The C-Store is another stellar place on campus, as the workers frequently monitor patrons and make sure policies are followed. If a student tries to enter the store without sanitizing their hands, they are stopped and not allowed to enter until they do so. The workers also ensure that no more than 10 people are in the store at a time, as evidenced by the lines that occasionally wrap around Usdan.
Despite these rules made by Brandeis, and the few places where they are properly instated, violations run rampant and seem to occur no matter where we are on campus and what we are doing. From the dorms to the dining halls to the SCC, people are constantly wearing masks improperly or are in large groups, and the rules Brandeis has created seem to go ignored.
While certain locations are well marked and make it easy for students to follow social distancing guidelines, other areas lack this organization and clarity. Even in places where masks are strictly enforced, a general carelessness permeates. The dining halls are an unfortunate example of this phenomenon. Regardless of oversight by Sodexo managers, diners routinely bunch together and pass each other while navigating clustered food lines. Social distancing often falls to the wayside while people wait to get into Sherman dining hall during the dinner rush. A similar situation occurs at the admissions testing site, where students bunch together near the check-in desk while logging into their passports. Directional arrows are often not enforced or followed. It certainly doesn’t help that these arrows often seem to be pointing in the wrong direction or leading you to a dead end. If you are uncomfortable with these clusters, there is very little you can do about it, both in the moment and after.
There is only one place on the Brandeis website where you can go to report these kinds of violations: the Community Standards reporting form. However, this is also the same form where you are supposed to report community misconduct such as sexual harassment, cheating and discriminatory behavior. Additionally, as a result of the more serious violations found in this form, these types of reports generally take a long time to be processed and resolved. If there was a reporting form that was specific to COVID-19 violations, and these types of violations could be relayed to public safety, then there could be a much quicker response time to these violations. This would lead to a higher chance that these rules would be enforced and followed.
Unfortunately, with the lack of such a form, we must take it upon ourselves as the student body to enforce these rules. Not only should you keep yourself accountable for your actions, but you should keep those around you accountable as well. It is clear the university either lets certain infractions go with little accountability or overly penalizes students with threats of dismissal from campus. While Brandeis should be monitoring public spaces more closely, the lack of this oversight leaves the task to students. The most fruitful option for students is to consistently keep our own peers in check; we are able to effectively come across to our own friends in a way that can and will actually be heard.
Of course, it would be disingenuous of us not to acknowledge that all of this is really hard. Brandeis is a respectful place, sometimes to a fault. It is difficult to ask your close friends and roommates to stay at home and ignore parties. It’s really hard to convince yourself to stay home sometimes. It’s hard to ask other students in the dining halls to stay in line or respect your personal space, especially when, practically, you would have to do this over and over again. The safety protocols of the pandemic are absolutely exhausting, and usual rigors of life have not slowed down. It is strange that, despite policy and science saying otherwise, you still feel like the bad guy for playing it safe when the world around you is screaming to just get this thing over with.
We just have to keep fighting. Do not forget that this thing can and will someday end. Vaccines are coming. Do your part for just a little longer. Stay inside, dream of the world to come. Life won’t get any easier, but at least you won’t have to stand on a sticker for the next decade.