Students create ‘HERE’s the Why’ Instagram account to advocate for social responsibility
Erin Fennessy | Tuesday, August 25, 2020
The tri-campus community has taken the fight to bolster student compliance to COVID-19 health guidelines into their own hands via social media. A student-run Instagram page titled “HERE’s the Why” began sharing personal stories from students, alumni and other concerned members of the community late last week in an effort to promote reflection on individual responsibility.
Notre Dame junior Kirsten Young said she decided to start the page after the University announced a two-week period of online classes following a spike in COVID-19 cases last week.
“I felt that a lot of the rules weren’t being followed,” Young said. “We were at a point where we needed to turn things around.”
Young said she thought sharing personal stories about the COVID-19 pandemic would help convince people to follow health guidelines.
“I know I have personal reasons. I think hearing personal reasons from other people would be a great way to connect with students,” she said. “Notre Dame students are smart. Hopefully these stories will make them stop and think about their actions, and influence them to do better.”
Kelly Mansour, a sophomore at Notre Dame, assists Young in maintaining the page. She said she got involved because she wanted to remind students about the impact following safety guidelines can have.
“I know wearing a mask and keeping 6 feet apart can be annoying,” Mansour said. “I know I have been missing the college experience we had last semester, so it’s important to remember why we’re doing what we’re doing to keep campus safe. … It’s so easy to wear a mask and stay six feet [apart], but it makes such a profound impact, and we’re trying to show that.”
The Instagram account has showcased a variety of concerns from both students and alumni, ranging from anecdotes about families and communities in hometowns to a spotlight on the influence the tri-campus community could have on the reopening of South Bend public schools. Multiple students have shared their misgivings about returning home, citing mental health concerns and unsafe home lives.
In particular, Young said she has received multiple stories from members of the LGBTQ community who shared that they are not out to their families at home.
“The idea of being sent home from campus is a huge source of stress to these students,” Young said. “They take it so seriously, so it’s hard for them to see other people not understanding the repercussions if the spread gets worse.”
Another post contains student testimony about contracting and recovering from COVID-19. The student, sophomore Ryan Murdock, has been vocal about his own battle with the illness on the “HERE’s the Why” page and in a Letter to the Editor.
Murdock said he shared his story so other students might understand that becoming ill with COVID-19 is a real possibility that should not be dismissed.
“I think so many people think, ‘oh we’re young, we’re immune, it doesn’t really affect us’ … which is just not true,” he said. “People think it couldn’t happen to them, but it does.”
Murdock said he experienced a 48-hour period of high fever and extreme fatigue after being contact traced to another student who had tested positive and moved into isolation. “I was feeling fine until I wasn’t and ended up in the emergency room with a high fever,” he said.
Murdock said he wants other students to accept the fact that they have to make sacrifices in order to finish the semester on campus.
“I get it, I wish we could go to parties, too,” Murdock said. “I wish we could have a normal semester like last fall but it’s just not possible. We can’t keep doing what so many people are doing … we have a responsibility to be better than that. If you think it couldn’t be you … you’re wrong, nobody’s immune.”
Going forward, Young said she hopes “HERE’s the Why” will prompt students to think of the impact their actions have on others when making choices.
“I know it’s so easy to fall into the temptations of being around your friends and drop your precautions a little bit,” Young said. “But remember every action you take has an impact on the people around, and it’s so important to be conscious of that right now.”
Mansour echoed Young’s call to consider the impact of individual choices on the community.
“It’s about the community, it’s about the common good,” Mansour said. “So we want people to just remember that when they’re talking with friends about their hopes for the rest of the semester, when they’re deciding what to do on a Friday night, that their choice to sit on the quad without a mask could impact more people than they could even imagine.”