Dear University of Nebraska-Lincoln Community,
I grew up in Nebraska dreaming of becoming a Husker. I have learned many things since first coming to campus. But most importantly, as I enter my senior year, I recognize the great privilege it is to be a Husker. It is a privilege to access a world-class education at a premier institution. It is a privilege to be a student at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. But more importantly, it is a privilege to be on campus. A privilege that is not permanent.
Many of us remember the hardship of transitioning to online classes last March. There was an incredible amount of uncertainty and challenge. Some students did not have a safe way to get home; others did not have a safe home to return to at all. Some students did not have proper access to the internet to complete course work; others particularly struggled not having in-person instruction or their on-campus job. These are part of the many reasons we are returning to campus this fall.
However, I worry. I worry about the group who do not take this pandemic seriously. For many, particularly for the ones that need to hear this message, transitioning to remote instruction did not take as heavy of a toll. Sure, you missed your friends and the fun events and the places you used to go to, but it was not a threat to your livelihood as a college student. It maybe even seemed like a silly, premature decision on behalf of the university. And now returning to campus, the possibility of reverting back to remote learning may even seem desirable at this point. Those are the students that need to understand the severity and delicacy of this situation.
If we ignore public health policy, we will not stay on campus. Classes will not be in person. Even more, events will be canceled, and our time here together in Lincoln will be very short-lived, if we take this experience for granted. We cannot refute the reality of this pandemic. There is too much at stake.
Denying COVID-19 (“It’s just a hoax”) or rationalizing COVID-19 (“It’s just another flu”) are dangerous, mislead mentalities that truly expose us to more harm. Attending large gatherings, even if it is just a backyard party or going out to a couple of bars on O Street with your friends, will bring our time on campus to an end. Not wearing a mask, even when it is just walking through the hallway of your residence hall, will result in more students, faculty, staff and those in our Lincoln community getting sick and dying, beyond just a departure from campus.
I won’t deny the demands these policies present. It can be inconvenient to always wear a mask, to be cognizant of the physical space you create between others, to say “no” to a big get-together with friends, but this is the reality we face. We must focus on the things that we can control, like wearing a mask, physical distancing, and avoiding large gatherings. We need to be all in and hold each other accountable.
Campus leaders have worked tirelessly all summer to ensure a safe return to campus this fall. I have served on the Forward to Fall committee this summer representing the student body, working diligently to put forward the best possible plan to ensure our health, safety, and well-being. Many other faculty, staff, administrators, and student leaders have done the same. We cannot let all of our hard work, thoughtful preparation, and commitment to the Cornhusker community go to waste.
There are no more excuses. It is on us.
Masked up and physically distant,
Student Body President & Student Regent, University of Nebraska-Lincoln