As a first-year living on campus during a widespread pandemic, my concerns about daily life at the University of Michigan unsurprisingly continue to increase. The administration does not seem to be taking the struggles of students into consideration, evident from the increase in our tuition, prevalence of lab fees and blatant lack of student testing. When I sit at home, watching my asynchronous recorded lectures, I can’t help but wonder whether attending this school right now is worth the thousands of dollars I am paying. And when I receive an email that announces the reintroduction of the Big Ten football season, I definitely begin to consider whether getting my degree is worth risking my life.
In complete candidness, it is very hard to argue that any class should be in-person. You can attempt to justify it by pointing out students are undergoing regular testing, though they truly aren’t, but consider my situation: I am a freshman living in an apartment complex on campus. There is no requirement to test me or anyone else in the building who also has in-person classes. One week ago, I called the COVID hotline offered by the University to report a party that could literally be heard three floors above me. After explaining that nobody is close enough to do anything, I was referred to building security, who referred me to the Ann Arbor Police Department, who said the only option available was to file a noise complaint. It is a frustratingly ignorant assumption to think that socially starved teenagers in one apartment complex will choose to remain socially distant. And the resources that have been offered to tackle gatherings which disregard COVID-19 guidelines have been of no use. It is more abhorrent that the university has prioritized profit over the health and safety of its students. Quite frankly, even education is not a valid reason to group college students together during a pandemic — health and safety must obviously be the number one priority.
Testing students for COVID, one of my only hopes for a semblance of safety on campus, has been abysmal. From early August to Aug. 20, there were a total of 1,306 tests administered: a number which seems ridiculously low, and not nearly large enough to actually determine how many students are walking around campus infected. With nearly 30,000 students, only around 4-5 percent were tested in the beginning of August; a rate that clearly shows where the University’s priority lies. Now the University has promised to increase testing up to 6,000 a week by the end of September. This is an effort I appreciate, but it’s not enough. Where is the logic in pairing new safety efforts with reopening the Big Ten football season? Granted, football players will all undergo testing, and players that test positive for COVID will be forced to sit out of the game for a minimum of 21 days. But has the University not learned that reintroducing popular entertainment is cause for more reckless get-togethers among college students?
Aside from the seemingly contradictory policies, it is hard for me to wrap my head around the concept of paying more money to be in a place where my health is not a priority. The $50 fee required from each student, which was used to create the masks and kits, made me wonder why the university had not utilized its other forms of income and endowments which could have provided these essentials for life on campus. Instead, they rely on students, who may be facing the most difficult time in their lives. And if cost must be added, could the nonessential fees at least be taken away? For instance, Bio 173, an introductory biology lab class, requires students to pay $45 for laboratory supplies. However, if I am not going to be in a lab, where is my money going, if not toward my own learning?
Paying extra only to have been followed by canceled classes for a week seems ludicrous. While I sincerely appreciate the efforts of the Graduate Employees' Organization in terms of fighting for a safer environment for both students and staff, I wish the administration was capable enough of controlling the situation at hand so it didn’t have to reach a point where education had to have been disrupted. The reaction to efforts calling for the right to work remotely, vigorous plans for testing and preventing the spread of COVID-19 was met with a lawsuit, an action that screams louder than words. South Quad currently has 13 positive cases of COVID-19, and cases are confirmed in most other dorms: Bursley, Couzens, West Quad, North Quad and so on. Nonetheless, college proceeds to go on in-person and this shows me that my money is valued more than I am. As a freshman who spent the entire senior year of high school looking forward to attending the university, this is deplorable. If the proper protocol was enacted when the numbers were low perhaps the number of positive cases wouldn’t have gotten to this state. With the University creating more opportunities for students to get together, I wouldn’t be surprised if we lived tip-toeing on ice next year as well. At this point, I wouldn’t consider the University to be either leaders nor best, a reality all students are going to have to face if proper, serious precautions are not installed immediately.