Well, here we go again. This semester marks our fifth semester that is considerably impacted by COVID-19. Since then, there have been so innumerable changes to our community, and we have all shown tremendous adaptability to these changes. Due to our extraordinarily high vaccination rates, booster mandates and a rigorous COVID-19 testing site, it appears that Brandeis is very well-equipped to deal with the pandemic.
However, we believe that this semester will look quite differently than the last one. In fall 2021, we were entering the school year with no cases being reported on campus over the summer for 10 consecutive weeks. However, in spring 2022, we are entering the semester with over 100 students either in isolation or in quarantine at the time of publication, and with over 50 members of our community testing positive each and every week. Moreover, these statistics are from the campus during winter-break; Brandeis is hardly at a quarter capacity, yet the current positivity rates on campus are devastating.
We are not bringing up these figures just to be pessimistic about the current state of Brandeis (and of Massachusetts as a whole). While we certainly hope that the COVID-19 situation on campus will improve and we all will not be moved online again, we also understand that this might be inevitable. Rather, we bring this up to drive home the point that we are currently in a very sensitive and unprecedented state for Brandeis where we are not used to having these high positivity rates on campus. If you think that it was important to quarantine in your rooms, wear masks and not engage in large social gatherings indoors a year ago, then it is even more important right now.
It’s also important to note that just because positive cases on campus and close contacts are much more commonplace now than they have previously been, this does not diminish how seriously you should take a close contact quarantine or a positive case. This is especially true as the Omicron variant tears through the United States, which is a particularly transmissible variant.
We encourage the entire Brandeis community to do their due diligence and be responsible. Get tested twice a week. Stay home if you are sick. Respond to contact tracers if they reach out to you. Wear your mask. Fill out your Daily Health Assessment, truthfully. It’s really not that hard. Except…
Last semester a lot of students experienced classes in which professors do not give the students an option to come to class virtually, forcing students to choose between missing class or coming to class sick. Professors who do this: you are part of the problem. We cannot believe that the university actually allows this. We don’t want to go to class where people are clearly sick because the professor doesn’t want to record the class / open a zoom link. It is outrageous. We are in the middle of a pandemic, act accordingly. Having classes recorded is one of the best things that came out of the pandemic. This is a huge part of the reason why students are lying on the Daily Health Assessment! Why would someone truthfully say that they are not feeling well (thus getting a red passport and not being able to come to campus) if they will just miss out on class materials which are crucial to their success?
Brandeis needs to get its COVID-19 policies straight: it cannot tell students to stay home if they are sick and then penalize students who are being responsible. We get it, some students will take advantage of the leniency, but is that seriously worth people coming to class sick? Do better, Brandeis.
We hope that this semester, everyone will be more considerate of one another. We hope the Student Union continues to advocate for true student needs, and focuses on why they were elected in the first place. We hope, through collective efforts, we can have a “normal” semester.