University is housing logic over undergraduates

Thursday, November 19, 2020 - 3:46pm

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Insanity, according to Albert Einstein, is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. Unfortunately, some of us are so darn stubborn that we believe we’re right even when we aren’t and repeat the same mistakes. My psychology professor would call this an inability to perform metacognition: a failure to recognize our incompetence. But, the University of Michigan is ahead of the curve — literally and figuratively.

On Nov. 6, University President Mark Schlissel effectively closed most of the undergraduate residence halls for the winter semester due to increasing COVID-19 cases. With Thanksgiving break beginning on Nov. 20, most freshmen will have vacated campus, leaving those residing in off-campus housing as the remaining majority.

The decision has undoubtedly left undergraduates disconcerted. Out-of-state students are finding apartments, storage options for their items for the next ten months or moving back home. At this rate, students have a better chance at winning the Powerball than securing a sublease. Not to mention, we have to navigate final projects, papers and exams. The amount of stress we’re experiencing is unrivaled. Furthermore, there’s a heavy emotional weight to the University’s actions. 

Many of the University’s restrictions over the past three months have waned or felt less impactful, but losing the winter is too big a burden to bear, right? As if losing the latter half of our senior year in high school wasn’t enough, now we’re forced to forgo the second part of our freshman year as well? Granted, the “college experience” we’ve all fantasized about hasn’t truly come to fruition, but we could still hope, right?

Wrong. 

We can’t. Quite frankly, we shouldn’t. As much as we think we can control the actions of others, we cannot. Consequently, COVID-19 has jeopardized first-year students’ safety far more than it should have. Some of us have been more vigilant in following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols than others, but the minority who believed they were invincible spoiled the winter 2021 semester for most of the undergraduate population.

In the midst of my dejection, I thought back to Einstein’s words. The U-M data hasn’t been entirely encouraging for our futures. Coupled with the fact that flu season is fast approaching and that we’re going to be spending more time indoors because of the weather, how “insane” would it be for the University to continue housing undergraduates?

Yes, the administration’s choice means I’ll be studying at home for the entirety of my freshman year. However, I’m not a gambler; I’d rather wait and safely preserve my peers’ lives — as well as my own — until we receive a vaccine (which we have reason to believe is on its way). Therefore, I think Schlissel and the administration made the correct call. It’s the latest episode in a series of unpopular but righteous decisions. 

To those who remain skeptical: What would be a better alternative? By allowing undergraduate housing in January, you’re delaying the most difficult part of the situation, which happens to be what first-years are about to encounter. The administration’s resolution is the equivalent of ripping a Band-Aid off; it’s inevitable, so you may as well do it quickly and avoid a slow, painful peel. 

In fact, we’re in such a dire situation as a state that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is prying off a second Band-Aid and picking at a scab that should have scarred in June. If Schlissel and his team had not made this call, Whitmer’s order would have had the same effect. There is a question of maturity for us as students: Are we able to take this pandemic seriously as we transition to full-on adulthood? If we’re being honest with ourselves, we know the answer. We’re stubborn by nature; we have always wanted normalcy since the pandemic first struck, no matter how gravely dangerous the price. If we cannot make the sound choice ourselves, we must trust our leaders to minimize the ensuing damage.

From here on, we must trudge along and embrace the uncertainty of our situation. While it may not be the only solution, it is the best one for us, whether we appreciate it or not. Living and studying at home is unappealing, but it can be done. In fact,you might enjoy it more than you think. To those of you who were lucky enough to find off-campus housing: Take one for the team and don’t screw this up for the rest of us. 

In the meantime, to fully enjoy the “college experience” we’ve been so desperately searching for, we must follow in the steps of the administration by thinking with our heads and not our hearts. We cannot afford to be insane. 

Sam Woiteshek can be reached at swoitesh@umich.edu


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