Many of us are looking forward to the end of “Hibearnation,” galvanized by the fact that only two cases of COVID-19 have been recorded among students living in residence, the end of Bowdoin’s intense restrictions appears to be in sight. We want to see our friends again; we want “normal” again.
However, the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions on campus does not mean the dangers have disappeared. If anything, the period after “Hibearnation” creates an even greater temptation to venture outside the “Bowdoin Bubble,” and therefore an increased risk of endangering oneself, other members of the Bowdoin community and the citizens of Brunswick. Students, simply excited to be on a college campus and surrounded by their friends once again, might be enticed to dine in at a restaurant or gather in numbers that exceed a room’s occupancy limit.
“Hibearnation” restrictions have been very clear, as all regulations have been outlined in detail, reiterated and reinforced. However, as we transition into a status of greater freedom and leniency, the responsibility to protect our community will continue as each of us decide what standards we will hold ourselves to and how we will direct our decision-making. While there certainly are rules for yellow status, our danger lies in allowing ourselves to feel too safe in the eased conditions.
We also must consider the health and safety of other students living in residence, as not everybody’s needs and situations are the same. As we move out of isolation, so do our decisions. We now have the potential to affect not just ourselves, but a network of our podmates and the campus as a whole—which includes students who are immunocompromised or have other pre-existing health conditions. The stakes are infinitely higher for these at-risk students.
This may result in some challenging and stressful conversations with friends and classmates, but they must be had in order to keep everybody safe. As the rules relax, they also get far more complicated. Can leaving campus to stock up on ice cream be deemed essential? Is gathering with a group of friends from outside of your pod in a common space worth the risk of contracting COVID-19? Each of these decisions will demand a newfound level of judiciousness. Stay prudent.
The hardest part is yet to come. It will lie in the coming weeks of consistently following regulations and making our own choices about how we are going to keep ourselves accountable. As well as adhering to the precautions put in place by the College, we must remember to treasure the opportunities we do still have to connect with faculty, staff and peers in a socially distant manner, and above all, to refrain from taking this unconventional semester for granted. The ability to reside and learn on campus during a pandemic, supported by a network of peers, faculty and employees is a privilege—one that many students do not have.
The safeguards that the College has put in place are only as strong as our commitment to them.
This editorial represents the majority view of the Editorial Board which is comprised of Tucker Ellis, Julia Jennings, Kate Lusignan, Nina McKay, Dylan Sloan, Emily Staten and Ayub Tahlil.