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Observer Editorial: Don’t make us write obituaries.

| Friday, August 21, 2020

When we learned the institutions within the tri-campus community intended to have students return for the fall semester, we experienced a variety of emotions — excitement to reunite with our friends, relief to return to the classroom following the difficulties of remote instruction and reluctance to acknowledge that the in-person semester we were promised could be taken away at a moment’s notice.

Two weeks into the semester, our worries are close to reality.

The University administration has largely blamed the COVID-19 outbreak on students attending off-campus parties. While this isn’t entirely misplaced, it has been used to deflect responsibility from the very administrations that insisted they were prepared for us to return to campus. 

Clearly, they were not. 

Flaws in testing, contact tracing and isolation and quarantine accommodations have since proven inefficient. At Notre Dame, the almost two-week gap between the return to campus and the implementation of surveillance testing, scheduled to begin today, represents a gross oversight on the part of the administration and has put the health and safety of the tri-campus and South Bend communities in serious danger. Experts warned this was likely, but University President Fr. John Jenkins insisted it was worth the risk. Presidents Katie Conboy and Fr. David Tyson seemed to agree.

Since our return, a dashboard has provided the Notre Dame community with updates regarding the coronavirus on campus, but it leaves much to be desired in comparison to other institutions’ initiatives, such as that of the University of North Carolina. As the events on campus have drawn national scrutiny, information regarding hospitalizations, recoveries and available quarantine and isolation space should be made public as well as a breakdown in the demographics of students testing positive. The community’s understanding of the seriousness of the situation depends on it.

Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross have provided even less information than Notre Dame. While we would like to know more about cases and testing on campus, we also call upon both Colleges to provide the same information we are asking the University to release. The lack of transparency from our administrations only compounds the worry and anxiety felt by students, faculty and staff alike. 

If we’ve learned anything in the past months, it’s to take nothing for granted. The expectation that everyday life will continue as it always has can no longer exist. As redundant as it sounds, the next two weeks will shape the trajectory for the rest of the semester and perhaps the ones to follow.

The blame for this does not lie with just one party. We — as students, faculty, staff and administrators — need to share responsibility for the outbreak on our hands. We longed to return to South Bend while in quarantine last semester. Now, we are at risk of hurting the community we’ve come to know and love. 

We implore members of the tri-campus community to do everything within their power to approach this virus in an appropriate and serious manner. Otherwise, we fear the worst is yet to come. 

Don’t make us write a tri-campus employee’s obituary.

Don’t make us write an administrator’s obituary.

Don’t make us write a custodian’s obituary.

Don’t make us write a dining hall worker’s obituary.

Don’t make us write a professor’s obituary.

Don’t make us write a classmate’s obituary.

Don’t make us write a friend’s obituary.

Don’t make us write a roommate’s obituary.

Don’t make us write yours.

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