It is fair to say that 2020 was the worst year many of us have ever endured. And while there is still hope for 2021, it is not off to a grand start so far. With the COVID-19 vaccine rollout slowly underway, the Biden administration says opening schools and vaccinating teachers are important priorities in reviving America’s education system. Yet, college students, faculty and staff are not prioritized despite falling into such categories. Last month, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor, said that the vaccine will be available for the general public in April. However, given the country’s current struggle to distribute the vaccine swiftly and college communities not being high on the priority list, it is probable we will not receive the vaccine until mid to late summer. This decision, in my opinion, is a big mistake.
While the majority of college students are relatively healthy, this population poses great risks to those who are not. Teenagers and young adults suck at quarantining. Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s instructions to stay home, socially distance from those outside of the home and wear a mask, many young adults behave as if these regulations do not apply to them. Whether they are unafraid of contracting the virus or have perhaps already had it, many college-aged students feel that putting their frat parties and tailgates on hold is too big of a sacrifice to be made during a global pandemic.
I should note that Lewis & Clark does not fall under this description; in fact, I have been very impressed with the way LC students have navigated and adhered to COVID-19 protocols while living on campus. However, LC students’ fervent dedication to minimizing the spread of the virus is more an anomaly than it is a norm. Brown University is one of many schools that began their fall semester with a hybrid learning model but quickly moved to online after seeing a steady rise in COVID-19 cases amongst students. With this in mind, college students should receive the vaccine earlier so that others do not have to suffer at the expense of young adults’ recklessness and self-indulgence.
Like LC, other colleges have kept their doors and campuses open, and because of this, college dormitories are epicenters for contagion. Much like elderly living facilities, whose occupants are labeled a high priority for vaccination, college dorms, which consist of communal bathrooms, kitchens and lounges, enable the virus to spread like wildfire. While the age demographic residing in elderly living facilities bears little resemblance to those living in dorms, the layout and physical construction of these buildings do.
College faculty and staff who have not already received the vaccine deserve to be vaccinated alongside primary and secondary educators. A handful of LC faculty and staff are frustrated that they are not considered a priority. Just as primary and secondary teachers are considered essential for early education, college professors play a fundamental role in shaping the college’s name, experience and values. I find it incredibly offensive that after facilitating a hybrid educational model since August, LC faculty’s incredible dedication in adapting and teaching during these turbulent semesters is deemed minuscule by the Oregon Health Authority.
The LC administration says it is unlikely the vaccine will arrive at Palatine Hill this semester. Considering we, students, have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into this school while receiving an abnormal and compromised educational and social experience, the administration should be bending over backward and going the extra mile to get vaccines for students, faculty and staff. Considering President Wim Wiewel works regularly with Gov. Kate Brown, maybe putting in a good word to ensure the safety of LC and other Oregon colleges would not be such a bad idea.
This article presents opinions held by the author, not those of The Pioneer Log and its editorial board.