There was a deafening silence when Fr. John Jenkins, C.S.C. said that they were going to send us home. Queue a long pause that stretched even further with anticipation for any insight on our future.
A million thoughts went through my head: Of course, we only had one job. How could I get home with such short notice, plane tickets were sure to skyrocket? Was I even supposed to travel?
Then, we heard Fr. Jenkins finish his sentence and announce that the decision to send us home has been halted due to the enactment of a campus-wide, two-week shutdown of the majority of public places, the restriction of on-campus residence halls to exclude non-residents, and the more strict enforcement of already established rules and regulations. What was this?
I was outraged and disappointed. I was already socially distancing, wearing my mask, washing my hands, and disinfecting almost any surface before it crossed the threshold into my single room. Why was I being punished even more?
However, this was a lesson that Notre Dame needed to learn: this is a community. We are all a part of this incredible community and need to value, respect, and protect each and every member of that family - especially those most vulnerable. We often boast and brag about the Notre Dame family and how important it is to the success and reputation of this University. So, why is this any different now?
The fact of the matter is that we are fighting for the continuation of in-person classes, seeing a friend across the quad, watching Netflix with a hallmate, going to the movies, hanging out on Eddy Street, or even not fearing that stranger who sits at an awkward distance next to you in that Philo class.
We can't continue down the path we once were. We cannot accept that this "new normal" is temporary and the dining hall will resume to its pre-pandemic normal, packed shoulder-to-shoulder as we line up to wait in the stir-fry line.
Instead, we must look at this as a continuing battle against COVID-19 and our temptations to fall into stereotypical college student behavior. Winning this battle would prevent us from having to view graduation of our laptops, study for finals with our siblings down the hall, and be subject to the inevitably greater social isolation in our home environment. Our friends will be across time zones, not South Quad. Our lab partners will be across borders, not the classroom. Our dedication to class will be prone to slip and there will be many lives that we will have risked to reach the point of leaving campus.
As young students, we tend to think that the world is our oyster and is filled with endless possibilities. That's not wrong. But, allow me to place some emphasis on what is key to that understanding. The world is OUR oyster, it belongs to each and every individual and Notre Dame is not an exception. We must act not as individuals but as a collective in this fight. As for the second bit, yes, the world is filled with endless possibilities. So why would we be exempt from the possibility of being sent home, falling ill, or being the reason another falls ill?
This is about protecting the elderly, the vulnerable, the sick, the poor, the staff, the faculty, the hallmates, the roommates, the friend, the family, the Fighting Irish.