This semester, particularly for those of us living in Brunswick, it has been easier than ever to confine our perspectives to campus. COVID-19 has altered life at Bowdoin in ways that have made it seemingly impossible to talk about anything else—new updates have been released daily all semester, and every announcement of an expedited vaccine timeline or relaxed restriction spawns passionate conversations. Grappling with understanding what it means to be a Bowdoin student in the COVID-19 era has demanded a tremendous level of thought and discussion.
This past week, in particular, has been an exceptionally tumultuous one in terms of COVID-19 discourse on campus. Questions about the College potentially relaxing guidelines due to state suggestions, criticisms of the way the College has handled violations of the Campus Community Agreement and excitement about students beginning to receive their second vaccine doses have dominated campus dialogue. It’s an exciting and important time for these conversations to be happening—we’re at the home stretch of the semester, and the light at the end of the tunnel seems to be approaching.
As conversations around COVID-19 on campus seem to be trending positive, the reality of COVID-19 around the world is not going in the same direction. While things are looking up here, the situation is growing increasingly dire in many places, including India. Experiencing one of the worst outbreaks of the pandemic thus far, India is currently averaging nearly 350,000 new COVID-19 cases daily while facing a shortage of hospital beds and oxygen. And, despite being one of the biggest producers of the vaccine, India does not have enough doses for its citizens.
We cannot lose sight of this global humanitarian crisis amid discussions about the Bowdoin campus and community. Yes, it is important to engage in the daily issues that are affecting us directly, but we also must contextualize our actions and experiences within the larger crisis.
Many of us, too, are affected by this. The pandemic continues to exist in our thoughts and personal experiences but is not necessarily reflected in campus dialogue. Many students and their friends or families have been personally impacted by COVID-19 in ways that are real and devastating. However, the dominant campus discourse has largely remained disconnected from that perspective, viewing COVID-19 more as a social obstacle than as the life-threatening disease that it is. This is dangerous, especially at a moment where the virus is spiking to an all-time high in one of the world’s most populous nations.
We are in a position of immense privilege to be able to debate second vaccine doses and outdoor mask mandates. When we discuss the minutiae of whether or not to allow varsity teams to travel out-of-state for games and focus on the social implications of the virus and the College’s regulations surrounding it, we lose sight of the danger of COVID-19 itself. The way that this dominates our discourse reflects an overall lack of sensitivity to how deeply many of our community members—and so much of the larger world—has been, and continues to be, affected by the crisis.
COVID-19 is not a Bowdoin issue, a Maine issue or an American issue—it’s a global issue. It’s a challenge to pull ourselves out of the active and passionate dialogue going on around campus every day—the effects that COVID-19 is having on campus life are real and pertinent to every one of us, and we confront them personally every day. However, we must continue to expand our worldview beyond Brunswick and remain conscious of what the rest of the world is facing.
This editorial represents the majority view of the Editorial Board, which is comprised of Julia Jennings, Kate Lusignan, Nina McKay, Dylan Sloan and Ayub Tahlil.