This week, Montclair State University’s fall semester began mostly through an online format and the administration, faculty, staff and student body collectively have little to no idea what our lives are going to look like by the end.
The best thing we can do is try our best to take every turn in stride and stay hopeful for a safe and swift return to the lives we lived before the new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in March. The only thing known for sure is this virus is unpredictable. The events necessary for a return to normalcy are difficult to determine and the time of their occurrence is equally in the balance.
In other words, the only thing we know for certain is nothing is certain.
The fact remains, however, that a return to school puts those on campus at risk of contracting and spreading the virus to others on campus as well as their own personal acquaintances.
Montclair State’s Student Conduct department has made it perfectly clear they will be approaching any failure to adhere to COVID-19 safety guidelines with a zero tolerance policy. An announcement was made in a campus-wide email stating students who are seen on campus not wearing a mask will be suspended or expelled.
There have been 11 students already suspended for gathering in a large group absent of face coverings and social distancing. Following the incident, another message was sent out to the student body with the title “Is the Next Message You Want to Get: Pack Your Bags and Go Home?”
Furthermore, the warning read, “Please understand, there will be no second chances. Any student who violates the safety protocols will be immediately suspended from housing (possibly for the remainder of the year), will be referred to the Director of Student Conduct for disciplinary action and will be immediately de-registered from any courses or programs that have an on-campus component. There are also no refunds for housing when a student is removed through the conduct process.”
In President Susan Cole’s fall 2020 semester welcome video, she explains how everyone at the university is working together to provide the opportunity for students to pursue their educational goals and participate within the life of Montclair State.
President Cole also recognizes our rights as students to engage in the resources the university has to offer, but it is everyone’s collective responsibility to proceed with wariness and diligence.
She stated, “There will be ways for you to engage with your classmates and friends, talk to your faculty and advisors and connect with clubs and activities. We just need you to do it carefully.”
If that responsibility is honored, perhaps the spring semester will resemble the semesters before COVID-19. Either way, it’s certainly worth a shot.
Phrases like “this is an unprecedented time” and “we’re all in this together” have been commonly used throughout the course of this pandemic. One phrase in particular carries a certain danger if accepted into the common lexicon: “It’s the new normal.”
What we are living through now and have experienced over the past six months is entirely abnormal. Having over 1 million cases and a six-figure death count is not something any of us should get used to.
If we accept this new frightening way of life lacking the healthy and necessary experiences we may have taken for granted, the lives we lived previous to this viral outbreak will be forgotten and lost.
We must remember what it is like to hug a family member you haven’t seen in a long time, or to go out with friends to see a movie or just doing anything outside of your home without that lingering existence of risk in the back of your mind.
Everyone from all age groups from all over the country has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the costs having been dealt for nearly half of a year now, the toll has not yet been paid completely.
Although the light at the end of the tunnel may be flickering, we must not let ourselves become comfortable with the darkness but, instead, approach the light with cautious optimism.