Op-ed: If we want to get out of this pandemic, we must stay home this semester

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Students prepare for learning remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sari Finn, contributor

Three in four students plan to return to college campuses if they are open, and I fall among the quarter of students who plan to stay home. The private rooms at my local public library will be my new classroom this semester instead of the outrageously priced on-campus apartments.

I chose to stay home for the simple reason of decreasing not only my risk, but also my family’s risk of contracting the coronavirus. There have been over 5 million cases and nearly 170,000 have died from the virus in the United States in the past seven months, with the death toll only rising.

On a college campus, no matter how hard Northeastern’s administration attempts to contain the virus by enforcing social distancing, mask-wearing and frequent testing, there is no guarantee college students will abide by the rules. Currently, there are little to no punitive measures in place if students fail to follow these regulations. 

How do we expect students not to spread the coronavirus if they have proven otherwise in the past? The nature of a university campus essentially makes it a playground for any illnesses, diseases or viruses. Mononucleosis, commonly referred to as mono, is among the top eight college campus illnesses. The virus is known to infect college students because they live in close quarters, frequently share food and drinks, use communal showers and restrooms and more. Additionally, college students often are stressed out as a result of sleep deprivation and unhealthy eating habits, which significantly weakens their immune systems, making them even more susceptible to viruses. As we know, the coronavirus is transmitted in a similar way to mono, meaning only one thing: COVID-19 is highly likely to spread on campuses across the country. 

Financially, students can save a significant amount of money by choosing to live at home. Many students are asking themselves, “Why am I paying for housing and moving expenses when I’m going to be attending virtual classes?” College students already struggle to stay afloat, as a whopping 49% of students have outstanding student debt. If students choose to return to campus, they are being robbed of the amenities normally included in the cost of overly expensive tuition

Firstly, the dining halls are no longer buffet style, so students must get their meals in to-go bags. Students returning and learning remotely must pay the student activity fee, part of which covers the costs of social spaces — spaces that will be off-limits in the fall. In the event that NU returns fully remote, students must evacuate campus like in the spring and pay overpriced storage, moving and travel costs. Low-income students will undoubtedly be impacted the most by such an abrupt decision.

While I understand living on-campus relieves some students from the difficulties they may face at home, we must also consider the mental burden of disruption that comes with returning to campus. Moving is among the top three stressors after the death of a loved one and divorce. College alone is already mentally draining, as The American Institute of Stress reports stress is an epidemic among college students. Forcing young adults to constantly live on edge contingent on their university’s decisions only elevates stress. I personally think it is very likely students will have to return home and learn remotely again. Another disruption will not only be an academic disruption, but a mental one as well. 

College students are selfish, and even if the majority of students are careful, the few who do not follow protocol will jeopardize the lives of many. I truthfully do not think it is worth the burden of traveling back to Boston amid a pandemic. Although learning remotely is not ideal, it is the safest option. During these times, we must be creative and innovative in finding ways to make the most of our college experience, even if it is from home. 

Sari Finn is a second-year industrial engineering major. She can be reached at [email protected]