In the past week, students have been confronted by the unfamiliar: quarantine units scattered across campus, students emerging from the health center wearing face masks and rumors about the latest person deemed sick. Despite uncommonly accurate predictions that swine flu would descend on college campuses with a fury this fall, the virus's arrival has been greeted with entirely negative connotations and social outcast. Chamberlain Hall is shunned as a sick ward, Dudley Coe is feared with a vengeance for its diagnoses, respiratory masks are funny costumes, and any cough or sneeze in a public space is greeted with undue—and often overly aggressive—exclamations of "Swine!"
The unusual contagiousness of the H1N1 virus raises the stakes for treatment and recovery, and students who are ill automatically receive a high profile on campus. Going to the health center with cold and cough symptoms, only to leave with a face mask and quarantine packing list, has taken on a stigma akin to bearing a scarlet letter.
Seeking treatment when sick, however, should be considered a mark of students respecting not only themselves but each other, a sign of maturity in the Bowdoin community. Students cannot recuperate if they do not allow themselves the time to slow down, and they do their friends and classmates no favors by continuing to live in dormitories and attend classes. Despite our tendency to commit ourselves and push through tough times, as intelligent Bowdoin students we should prioritize, putting our health above our academic obligations when necessary. Many professors have stressed understanding and exceptions with H1N1-related absences, and College administrators confirm that pleas for sick students to stay out of classes are made in earnest.
Though students have already contracted H1N1, it is unclear how long it will take for the virus to run its course. While the College has taken considerable measures to separate sick students from the healthy ones, the actions taken by individual students on a day-to-day basis have a more significant impact on the campus's overall health. The student body has the simplest of all precautionary efforts at its fingertips—literally. Hand-sanitization stations now dot the campus like checkpoints, and while some infection between students is inevitable, it is important for students to commit to their health by using common sense. While it may be habit to share drinks during parties and drinking games, there's no bigger flip cup faux pas than swapping swine flu saliva.
Wash your hands, cough into your elbow and keep your germs to yourself, please. If you have any doubt that your sniffles are only a cold, check in with Dudley Coe. Your roommates will thank you, your professors will forgive you.The editorial represents the majority view of The Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which comprises Piper Grosswendt, Will Jacob, Gemma Leghorn and Seth Walder.