A Plea from a Rising Senior: Prove Me Wrong


Since arriving home from my semester abroad in Dublin two months early due to COVID-19, I have existed as a dysfunctional tangle of emotions. I am confident that many of you know exactly what I’m talking about. Since March, many of us have been attempting to navigate a barreling sea of cancelled internships, months at home with family who seem to forget you’re an adult, constant uncertainty, and if you’re a student, whether you will be able to return to school in the fall. As a college senior, I am looking at only two semesters between myself and the real world with very little experience or money or confidence or job ideas or… anything else. Awaiting Colgate’s decision on reopening campus played a large part in tangling my emotions. 

On Thursday, President Brian Casey announced that Colgate students would be returning to campus in the fall. For weeks, I tried not to listen to rumors of campus reopening, fearing I may jinx the decision or scare it away, and tried to ignore the fear of losing valuable and numbered days at Colgate. I imagined that when the anticipated decision arrived, if campus was in fact reopening, I would feel a large weight lift off my shoulders. 

But it didn’t happen. I didn’t feel my emotions suddenly untangle as I had thought. If anything, I think the tangle became even more dense, more convoluted. 

This is not to say I feel no relief. My heart sincerely hurts for the seniors that will not have the chance to return to their campuses come fall and I am extremely grateful that Colgate’s class of 2021 will have that chance. I deeply appreciate the administration’s clear and dedicated effort that went into developing such a massive report in order to safely welcome us back to campus. 

However, as I read through the pages and pages and pages of changes and rules that would allow us to return, I could not help but feel my heart sink, just a little. Niche experiences that have come to define my Colgate experience — meeting clown carpools full of people at “the Gap,” or gathering at a pregame in divinely ridiculous themed outfits, or dragging our drunk parents from a fraturday and then to the brewery and then to the jug on parents weekend — will cease to exist. Scenes from the past three years that form when someone says Colgate will not look the same. Questions I expected to be resolved remained unanswered: What about my last chance to play club soccer? What about my weekly visits to the local elementary school? 

I tore myself away from my computer feeling sad and overwhelmed, then angry at myself for being sad and overwhelmed when I should feel thankful and relieved. After walking and clearing my head, I decided the tug of loss and lingering uncertainty was natural — maybe even expected. But I was not able to explain away the loudest feeling banging around somewhere in my stomach: an intense and bitter feeling of doubt. 

I worked through my thoughts and reactions with my most trusted and treasured friends and they led me to a realization: I don’t trust ourselves to see this semester through. I don’t trust the Colgate student body to follow these guidelines and I don’t trust my own senior class to set an example. I’m not confident we’ll be allowed to remain on campus the entire semester. 

You may be thinking, wow, this chick is a real party pooper. I’m going to go right ahead and ignore her. Before you do that, though, let me explain to you why I arrive in this place. 

As young people, it is established that we often act selfishly and in our own interest. Our worlds are still small and I think for many of us, we’re still in the center of them. This egocentric thinking, whether conscious or unconscious, is constantly present in the “Colgate bubble.” It comes hand in hand with the fact that much of our student body is made up of extremely privileged, straight, rich, white kids. 

We saw this kind of thought process when the administration officially closed campus in the spring, sending everyone home to curb the spread of COVID-19. Instead, much of the student body went on a four-day bender, causing a spike in cases among students who then brought COVID back to their hometowns and their loved ones. I witnessed this happen, then watched, quickly following, a collective, sober acceptance of the seriousness of the pandemic. 

I want to make something clear – I’m not saying I am above this. Would I have participated if I was on campus? Yea, probably. No, not probably — I absolutely would’ve gone on a four-day bender. I don’t point out this moment to evoke shame or to scold, but to make evident that although we constantly insist that the “Colgate bubble” is tiny and insular, this is not the case with COVID-19. Our actions — wearing or not wearing a mask, attending a gathering over the limit of people, ignoring University requests to not travel — will directly and overtly affect those around us. A refusal to accept the new, and hopefully temporary, Colgate normal, could get a friend sick, or another student. Maybe a professor or a member of staff.  Maybe small business owners whose shops are already struggling or Hamilton residents that have built their lives in the village, a place that undoubtedly lacks  the resources to survive a major outbreak. 

It will be clearer than ever, this semester, where our priorities as Colgate students lie. As one of my friends so bluntly said, people’s true colors will show. Which students actually value the village of Hamilton, that has a substantial population of older residents? Who will risk organizing a mixer with a fraternity or sorority, risking the entire student body’s fall semester? Which students will not wear a mask to class, ignoring the health of their professors and peers?

To my own classmates, the senior class of 2021, this is the biggest test we have collectively faced as a class. Not that we haven’t been tested before — we’ve faced an array of obstacles including, but not limited to, multiple incidents of hate and of racism, a hook up culture that perpetuates rape and sexual assault, a greek life system that not only harbors all of the above and more, but is violently exclusive and divisive. 

This semester, however, we hold a collective responsibility to show the younger generations of Colgate students what being a Colgate student means and how much we value our community. Arriving on campus in the midst of a global pandemic, a national reckoning with racism, and an economic recession, that are all happening under a President that suggested we inject ourselves with disinfectant, will be a challenge. However, being young in moments of drastic change and adversity means we have more resiliency, creativity, and independence to make it work. We haven’t yet lost our hope in people or the societies we live in, like many of our parents and grandparents have. That gives us a unique drive to not only imagine positive change, but see it through. 

Imagine this semester proves we can survive without our social scene as we know it. Imagine this is the semester we have more time to empathetically and genuinely consider our relationship with the village. What if we take the time to learn and care more about each other, simply because we are all, most simply, Colgate students?

I am convinced that we can rise to this challenge. I’m not convinced we will.

So, don’t ignore me. Instead, prove that I am, indeed, a party pooper. I challenge you, Colgate, and most importantly, my own class of 2021: prove me wrong.