Thanksgiving is this week, a holiday whose appeal and practice is more widespread across the United States than any other holiday. The annual day of gratitude carries many characteristics such as specific foods and desserts and the warmth of company, but none more than tradition. Unfortunately, tradition is exactly what we must be willing to break so the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic can finally become yesterday’s history.
Thanksgiving usually means college students will be traveling from school and returning home to spend the long weekend with their families; however, this is not a usual Thanksgiving and there is no reason to treat it as such.
The COVID-19 pandemic spread to the United States around March of this year, and Montclair State University was one of the few New Jersey colleges to decide to reopen in the fall. Students at Montclair State have thus far experienced a fall semester unlike any other in our university’s memory. While the regulations set in place by the university have evolved since the middle of August, we have been working hard to earn our course credits through a digital format from our homes and campus dorms for the last three months.
We can do it for one more month.
As we visit our families for Thanksgiving and winter break, we must remember the obligation we hold to those family members who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, our elected officials and school administrators who have worked to govern this unprecedented era to the best of their abilities. Most importantly, we must encourage ourselves and our fellow Red Hawks to remember to follow the recommended health and safety guidelines, with mindfulness and caution. Otherwise, the sacrifices we have made will be in vain and our spring semester will be no more “normal” then its successor.
Attending an institution of higher education is not just about earning a degree to prepare yourself for the professional world. College is a place to socialize and create lifelong friendships and to have fun. Most of all, college serves as a time in life where one can enter and leave as a completely different person. It is a place to find oneself.
We have been forced to sacrifice that aspect of college life so far this academic year, but for seniors and some graduate students, there remains one more semester this upcoming spring. We must do everything in our power to make sure it is not taken away from us as well.
While we have remained hopeful that Thanksgiving and the winter holiday season will serve as a beacon of light amid the dark shadow cast on our society by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that typical celebrations with friends and family would provide a glimmer of hope, it remains that this is not a time of normalcy. We must continue to do everything we can to make a real, safe return to normal life as quickly as possible.
We all know the safety guidelines promoted by the state, but the practice of those guidelines lies in our responsibility.