Students deserve answers as COVID-19 circumstances continue evolving on campus

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COURTESY PHOTO / WM.EDU

To the individuals presiding over the College of William and Mary: what do you consider to be an acceptable number of losses? Do you, in all honesty, think that this semester will go anything but poorly? Have you stepped on campus recently, and did it live up to your expectations? How many of you are living on campus this fall? Do you also have roommates that inevitably interact with a small but different group of people than you do? Remember, “We have a shared responsibility to do everything within our power to reduce the spread of this virus.”

What about your response is supposed to inspire confidence in your students that you’re doing enough to protect them from a pandemic that other similar, wealthier universities have been unable to fend off? Did you plan anything in the five months between sending students home and begging them to come back? Or are students subject to the whims of an administration hellbent on receiving housing payments? Remember, “Integrity is one of William & Mary’s core values.”

Why not be healthy apart? Do you think a deadly virus cares that “we are in it together”? Does wearing a mask make you feel confident enough to come back to campus or are you still working remotely? Is a sick student or a sick professor worse? How about a dead one? Remember, “Our community’s well-being is paramount. It is imperative that you do your part to safeguard everyone’s health at William & Mary.”

What happens if quarantine housing fills up? Where do we all go if there’s an outbreak on campus? Back home to our parents for whom this virus can be far more serious? What about students for whom coming back to campus was infeasible? If they have a serious health condition are they supposed to delay their college education for at least a semester just so you can have students back on campus? Remember, “The COVID-19 pandemic requires that we uphold our commitments to one another at all times and locations.”

What if we’re the school that shows everyone else how to open during a pandemic? What if we’re not? Is that the gamble that you’re willing to take? What makes us as an institution so exceptional, aside from having signed a document that outlines the different ways you can deny us a refund when we become an epicenter for the virus’s spread? While many of you seem sympathetic to the concerns raised by community members, too many are not.

You have implemented a zero-tolerance policy on students, so why don’t students implement a zero-tolerance policy on you? If it only takes a handful of students behaving recklessly to jeopardize the ability for all of us to be on campus this fall, how many administrators does it take to jeopardize the future of 6,000 undergraduates?

How firm are you in convictions to punish those goading a return to campus when the first positive case finds itself in a surprisingly crowded freshman dorm? What about the 100th? Remember, “Please note that the submission of intentionally false reports are subject to disciplinary action.”

You have asked students not to be selfish this semester, but have you asked yourselves not to be greedy? You have asked students not to be the reason that the school shuts down this semester, but have you asked yourselves not to be the reason that someone doesn’t go home this semester?

You have asked students not to be the reason that you have to lay off or furlough “valued employees,” but have you asked yourselves how culpable you are for the same offense? Have you considered the resolve of the community to take action to prioritize their health and well-being?

Who in the world is watching the College? What, in your mind, are students capable of doing other than demanding their money back when you shut us down? Without your compliance, our fall semester will be over before it starts. If the number of universities that are closing is growing daily, what makes you think we won’t join them?

Will the threatening emails do it? The passive-aggressive texts? How about having students afraid of making a mistake lest their future at this college is put in jeopardy? Remember, “If you see something, say something. Hold one another accountable.”

Please consider these questions moving forward.

Email Matt Lowrie at

mhlowrie@email.wm.edu.