Op-ed: How can Northeastern better protect our pack?

The+general+quality+of+life+at+NU+has+improved+from+last+years+coronavirus-induced+slump%2C+but+there+is+still+work+to+be+done.

Avery Bleichfeld

The general quality of life at NU has improved from last year’s coronavirus-induced slump, but there is still work to be done.

Sophia Ubertalli, contributor

We are now a few months into the semester and back on the ultimate grind. Returning to an in-person mode of learning and feeling like a freshman all over again has overwhelmed the Northeastern student population. Between the lack of space to accommodate all students while COVID-19 is still a threat and the foolish use of funds, school is off to a more negative start than many would think.

As a second-year student, I never had the chance to get to know the “actual” Northeastern. With the strict COVID-19 restrictions last year, campus seemed to be lifeless and empty. A vivid memory I have of spring earlier this year is: While I sat on a sun-lit Centennial Common packed with Huskies sunbathing and relaxing, getting that one email freeing us from the walls of our dorm: sign in guests. The energy on Centennial immediately lifted and students began to get pumped for the new year.

While coming back to campus and going to every single class in person has made last year fade into somewhat of a distant memory, there is still a lot of room for improvement around campus. First, more room must be made for students and staff. My old favorite study spot in the corner of Curry Student Center has now been overrun by a teeming number of students. It’s impossible to even grab a quick drink at Starbucks on the way to class since the line is always long. Despite the influx of new and returning students taking up more spaces on campus, Northeastern’s community seems to be blossoming. After a strenuous year and a half of social distancing and isolation, seeing people come together in person has been the most rewarding experience yet. I never realized how many smart and thoughtful people there were at Northeastern, and the overall sense of community has been outstanding. There is always a familiar face to smile and wave to when walking from one class to the next, highlighting how even a big city school can feel small and inviting.

Even though we do need more physical space on campus for students and staff to connect, other aspects of being in person at Northeastern have been worth it. I feel like Northeastern has done a good job at keeping students and staff safe this semester by enforcing indoor mask policies and COVID-19 testing while also fostering a connected community. Despite the need for safety, some argue that enforcing an indoor mask mandate goes against one’s individual freedoms. However, with COVID-19 still being a menace to society, we must recognize the need to not just protect ourselves, but those who are most vulnerable to contracting it. There’s a way to have both a safe and welcoming community, and people must be willing to compromise in order to reach that goal.

Even though conditions at Northeastern appear to be looking up, there is a need for campus reform. It’s necessary for us to look at the allocation of funds from higher up in the Northeastern administration. As opposed to spending a presumptuous amount of the university budget on a new center for innovation and discovery, also known as ISEC II, perhaps the administration of our university could focus on improving student health services, which are in dire need here at Northeastern. For example, instead of improving mental health services, University Health and Counseling Services, or UHCS, changed the refund policy for those who go on medical leave during the semester so that these students won’t receive refunds, despite their previous policy allowing such refunds. It’s time for the university to prioritize the well-being of the students that love and support their university and community as opposed to funding major projects like ISEC II, especially since there’s already an existing ISEC building.

As an optimist, I hope to see these changes happen within our community, and I know that together as a student body we can advocate for ourselves and for the betterment of the quality of student life at Northeastern. Let’s get on our feet and look forward to Beanpot, Husky Hunt and other traditions. Let’s organize our beliefs and stand up for ourselves to the executives behind the scenes of the NU administration. But most of all, let’s take advantage of our youth and just enjoy our college years.

Sophia Ubertalli is a second-year behavioral neuroscience major. She can be reached at [email protected]