‘Best of Both Worlds’: How UMass’ response to COVID-19 reminds me of Hannah Montana

Is UMass living a double life?

Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

By Max Schwartz, Collegian Correspondent

I like to integrate humor into my pieces because an integral part of good journalism is ensuring your audience is learning and enjoying themselves while they read.

While I’d love to sit here and complain about all the ways the University of Massachusetts has screwed me over, I know I’d simply be preaching to the choir. When I think of the situation we’re facing at UMass, I’m reminded of a song played far too many times throughout my childhood: “Nobody’s Perfect” by Hannah Montana. “Everybody makes mistakes, everybody has those days,” she sings in that wiry auto-tuned voice, alluding to the namesake of her 2007 hit.

Like Montana, UMass has made a lot of mistakes and had a lot of “those days.” UMass also lives a double life, telling students one thing and then doing another. It’s a trivial comparison to make but the number of parallels is quite alarming.

It feels as if the administration and student body here at UMass have been following an unwritten script this semester to reenact the titles of Montana’s greatest hits. Freshman quarantining in Sylvan’s COVID-19 crockpot recreated her electrifying 2008 tune “We Got the Party” last week as party music could be heard from the North Apartments. And, rumor has it, members of Greek life cited Montana’s “One in a Million” as justification for their super spreader parties too.

Of course, Theta Chi wasn’t the only one hoedown-throwing-down, but as NARPs (Non-Athletic Regular People) we’d be remiss to blame them when it actually comes down to an inadequate administration that fails to punish students who flout the rules. That’s what’s really “Been Here All Along.” Funny, I know, but there’s much more to the rampant spread of COVID-19 than one house party. It takes an entire administration ignoring the blatant disregard for rules to see over 500 positive cases in a given week.

I’m not mad at the University, I’m just disappointed. It’s disappointing to see the place you love so much become a shell of what it once was. I’ve had countless experiences here that remind me why I didn’t transfer, like those Halloweekend costume parties and my journalistic family at the Daily Collegian. But what I didn’t sign up for was a recreation of the “Wild Wild West” where UMass becomes Tucson, accountable students play James West, and the irreverent administrators play Dr. Loveless.

What’s arguably the most frustrating part of this whole predicament is that the majority of students are doing what they’re told. Sure, 50 percent of them are doing it because “someone didn’t get invited to the party,” but there’s another half that realizes the consequences of their actions. It’s a virus with a 99 percent survival rate, yet one percent of the American population is still 3.3 million lives.

A few months ago, I was working on a project with a great professor who also works at the Berkshire Eagle to profile the lives of those lost to COVID-19. I spoke to families who lost mothers, fathers, children and friends to a virus they know nothing about. What’s killing the country and the people we love is preventable, which makes seeing students throw parties and then come back to their dorm to study law and medical ethics that much more painstaking.

This is our future and we’re playing with it like fire.

We can do better though. As students and as people we’ve always found a way to come together when times get tough, but being the cynical realist I am, I ask a favor of my student readers: just think about it. Think about who suffers on behalf of your actions, how many employees and staff are furloughed, which businesses must close for good and then take a calculated risk.

I’m not encouraging you to be reckless, but I want you to consider the repercussions of your choices and then decide if it’s worth it or not, because at the end of the day “Life’s What You Make It.”

Maxwell Schwartz can be reached at [email protected]