Under most circumstances, running into a friend while scarfing down a batch of spicy tofu meatballs from Magic Carpet food truck on my way to class would be somewhat embarrassing – but not at Penn. That split-second interaction, while passing each other on Spruce Street, is accompanied by understanding and enthusiasm. We get each other. There is no need to justify my hurry.
With the University revealing its plan for the fall semester, I can’t help but acknowledge the blaring presence of surging coronavirus cases across the United States. Statistically speaking, with only 5-8% of the population being infected so far, 92% to 95% of the population remain susceptible to a coronavirus infection. The reality of this danger should produce instruction to be entirely online, not a hybrid model. Allowing everyone together on campus, even for a shorter period of time and in more dispersed groups than normal, will cause unprecedented outbreaks in a now vulnerable population and facilitate death.
Europe has mapped out a plan to begin reopening and welcoming foreign travelers beginning next week on July 1. The United States will not be included on the list of countries welcome to travel there. The world is currently watching and taking a step back from the US because of the way in which the virus is thriving among our populations. Will bringing thousands of people, both young and old, back to campus help control the spiking rage of COVID-19? No. It will add to our haunting list of losses. As more young people contract the virus, health officials are urging us to take the virus more seriously. But doing our part through social distancing and mask-wearing while on campus will be difficult. We are known as the “Social Ivy” for good reason.
As a person with an extremely high-risk parent and already having lost family members to COVID-19, going to campus is not an option for me. I spoke with College senior Allison Teti, studying Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, about her thoughts on returning to campus. She mentioned she is “not going to do anything in person because it’s dangerous for me and my high-risk parents.”
One of the beauties of academia is the prolonged curiosity it permits. Some of the professors I look up to the most have been journeying on their intellectual growth for decades. But many of these same faculty members, because of their age, are at a high risk of becoming very ill if they contract the virus. Allowing them to come to campus is not only unfair but also unsafe. Likewise, professors have families and loved ones that they go home to every day. We are at an unprecedented period in history. The only way to value everyone's right to live is by not allowing individuals to take unnecessary risks, because if given the opportunity, they will take them.
With no vaccine or treatment currently in sight, we are lagging in resources to keep up with our accustomed pace. Members of the Penn community will inevitably get sick. The city of Philadelphia, as the sixth largest city in the US, has a lot to lose if coronavirus cases begin to spike again. Under those circumstances, our presence on campus, which accumulates to thousands of young, social individuals in an already densely populated area, will hold some culpability as the virus becomes increasingly uncontrollable.
Our commitment to a fast-paced society will prove to be self-destructive if we do not step back and appreciate the value of life. Putting effort into stopping the spike in US cases and deaths should be the main goal, instead of completing one more semester of college at the risk of contracting COVID-19 for the sake of Penn’s financial stability. Ultimately, this comes down to valuing human life. As cases continue to rise, Penn should continue to keep everyone from returning to campus, just as they did after spring break.
JESSICA GOODING is a rising College senior from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania studying History and English. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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