Welcome to the Zoo

UMass students, faculty and administration are blissfully ignorant of adhering to COVID-19 regulations this semester

Ana+Pietrewicz+%2F+Daily+Collegian

Ana Pietrewicz / Daily Collegian

By Ronan Fitzgerald, Collegian Contributor

Noses here and noses there. Sometimes a chin too.

Welcome to the sights at the University of Massachusetts, where we’re not exactly sure what a pandemic is. I would explain but no one would care. So instead let me show you around. Take in the view of our “Zoo!”

Our first stop is the administration, who have stopped mandatory COVID-19 testing. It’s anyone’s guess as to what those coughs and sneezes mean from the people sitting next to you in class, the dining halls or the Recreation Center. And more importantly, if the administration will take any action beyond emails of unenforced policy.

Go UMass!

Next is our classrooms, where the faculty roam free and lecture mask-free — so long as they don’t spit too much when they talk and it doesn’t reach the students. We like to take good care of them, so if recording a class is too difficult for students who test positive, then why bother?

Last but not least, we have the noble students, who MUST wear their masks indoors, right? Well, you might think so, but our students are less noble than they are clever. Students have figured out that UMass staff don’t care that the efficacy of a mask is rendered useless when worn improperly. Instead, UMass is ready to showcase the new fashion trend, wearing it just below the lip or, a personal favorite of mine, the classic nose exposure. How cute and chic. How… utterly inconsiderate.

You would think they might counter with, “Oh well we’re vaccinated, the virus isn’t that bad,” but that amount of forethought is too great for our humble enrollees. Why do students feel justified in wearing their masks incorrectly? I’ll tell you why, they are selfish and ignorant.

Lately, I’ve noticed a lot more unwanted noses on display cruising around the dining hall. Little engines of air toxicity, silently spreading their disease around the entire building. We’re living in a new phase of the pandemic, and college students have given up on taking precautions for those who are immunocompromised or have underlying health conditions.

The well-being of others doesn’t seem to matter. The privileged and ignorant among us still strut around breathing freely, only pretending to wear their mask.

How about you actually stand up for the belief that you matter more than everyone else, and just take off your mask all together? Walk around proclaiming “I am an anti-masker, I don’t care about the lives of others.”

This seems to be a recent phenomenon as well. I can’t remember walking into any dining hall or study space spring semester and seeing at least half of all the students’ noses. Is there not the same level of urgency now as there was then? Are we not in the midst of the most contagious and possibly most lethal variant of this pandemic?

While available hospital and I.C.U. rooms in one part of the country are being pushed to their limit, UMass students are willingly threatening the safety of other students in dining and classroom spaces.

It is an absolute disgrace that students abuse their health advantage at the sacrifice of others, and that the University has sought to do nothing about it.

Sorry, pep-talk emails don’t count. Where are the real, enforceable policies here? I walk around the Recreation Center to grunting gym bros spreading whatever sickness they may have everywhere, and the adjacent staff idly look at their clipboards. Are they looking for a script? Here’s an idea: Wear your mask correctly or you’ll have to leave. Then kick them out if you catch them again.

This isn’t to attack the Recreation Center employees. It’s not their fault that UMass hasn’t enforced any of its regulations. Where is the University making sure the enforcers are doing their job? Of course, no one wants to do it, but are we still at that point of compromising public safety for our internal comfort?

We applaud the recent case numbers only being 100 for the week, but are we really that naive? Is anyone getting a test at the risk of being sent home, quarantining or missing class for two weeks? It doesn’t seem so. Only 7,899 tests were performed the week of Sept. 15 to 21, according to the University’s new and embarrassing COVID-19 Dashboard. It doesn’t include the daily positivity charts of on- and off-campus students and faculty, breakdowns by raw numbers and percentage changes or interactive graphs that the former 2021 spring dashboard did. And is that 7,899 tests out of the 13,000 undergraduate students living on-campus, or the estimated 30,000 total enrollees? The Dashboard makes no distinction, and either way, measuring 61 percent of the on-campus population, or approximately 25 percent of the total UMass community, is nothing to be proud of.

There is a massive, flawed system we all are living under this fall, and I’m not giving the University the benefit of the doubt. It’s been a year and a half.

Welcome to the Zoo.

Ronan Fitzgerald can be reached at [email protected]