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It’s Great to be Back UMass. Let’s be Responsible.

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

Some things are just better done in person: proposals, breakups, and college.

The emergence of COVID-19 in the United States has led to devastating consequences and abrupt change in all aspects of our lives. In academia, the pandemic eroded the boundary between school and home environments and tasked educators with redefining education in a virtual context. For all students, COVID-19 has affected our access to a well-rounded education and equitable learning environments. For our most vulnerable students — low-income students, students of color, students with disabilities, English learners, etc. — this pandemic has been incredibly detrimental to their education by exacerbating inequitable conditions already present in their learning environments. All that to say that this pandemic has sucked and college even more!  

I was late for my very first class of the semester because I, as a junior, had no clue where Mahar Auditorium was. Google Maps spun me in circles, but beneath my frustrations, I was happy to get lost on campus again and rant about the slightest inconveniences to my friends. The last time I was on campus, I was a freshman — bright-eyed, a little lost, but so excited to experience all that college had to offer. That experience was cut prematurely by the pandemic. 18 months later, I am back as a junior and still just as excited, if not more, to delve into the college experience and make up for the lost time. This feeling of loss, nostalgia, and an unsettling sense of unfamiliarity with the campus as an upperclassman are sentiments I believe are not unique to me. We’re all going through this awkward stage of being a college student during a pandemic together, making it feel less scary and lonely. 

When I finally found Mahar, I walked in at the back of the class, soaked in sweat and stricken with anxiety. I let out a  sigh of relief when I heard a girl sitting on the floor next to the door say, “girl, don’t worry, I was late too.”  I sat next to her, trying to catch my breath, and just and like that, I made my first friend of the semester. 

Moments like those — getting lost on campus and making friends in the bathroom, in the line to get food, and the sturdy floor of Mahar 108 — can’t be replicated over Zoom. However, these precious moments that scratch the itch in our hearts to connect with those around us are not permanent, as we learned 18 months ago when we all had to pack our bags and leave. 

While it is great to be back on campus, we must remember to be responsible! We must realize that our actions have direct consequences not only on us but our community at large. According to campus data, UMass reported 371 new cases of COVID-19 within the first two weeks of classes. These spikes in COVID-19 cases correlate to huge parties, especially off-campus, and large gatherings of unmasked students at tailgates and townhouse. The university should also do its part to keep us safe by implementing mandatory testing to better gauge the extent to which COVID-19 has infiltrated our community.

Bringing back “The Zoo” or “ZooMass” is not what we need right now. We need mandatory testing, people continuing to wear their masks, and more transparency by the school administration about their plans for dealing with rising COVID-19 cases on campus and even the town at large. 

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Konah Brownell

U Mass Amherst '23

Konah is a Political Science and Journalism major at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She cares deeply about issues relating to race, gender, immigration, education, and the environment. Outside of Her Campus, Konah enjoys writing poetry and runs a poetry account on Instagram @sunflower.seed.s_