Letter to the Editor: A Response to “Another Failure to Launch”

To begin, we would like to state that we take no issue with the author expressing frustration with this semester. Every student is handling COVID-19 differently and it is important to acknowledge that some are struggling more than others. Those voices are important. Mental health is a real concern all the time but especially now. We encourage students to reach out to the health center and the counseling center for advice and support. 

That being said, this piece leaps beyond the bounds of valid commiseration. Our response is both to this article specifically and to the general attitude of certain students on campus. In short: your entitlement is showing. 

For a lot of students, Colgate is a campus that normally lives without consequence. Let’s be honest, you can get away with nearly anything here (as long as it isn’t academic dishonesty). We live in a bubble and we know it’s a bubble. What other school has campus security that will drive you from Donovan’s to Drake because you’re too drunk and your feet hurt? That turns a blind eye to raucous partying and public intoxication? I won’t even say that this bubble is a bad thing. We trust our administration to look after us, for the most part.

But now we’ve got COVID-19 and this is the first instance that Colgate has ever really put its foot down. And the primary problem with this article? It ignores the fact that they didn’t do this just to inconvenience or punish us — they also did this to protect the town. Positive cases on campus have been asymptomatic. For the townspeople, it’s different. I’m not sure how many students stayed on campus throughout the quarantine, but I did. I’m not sure how many followed the Madison County COVID-19 numbers through the spring, but I did. I’m not sure if you are all aware that townspeople died. But they did. 

There are twenty-five beds at Community Memorial. Colgate may be swimming in money, but the people of Hamilton are not. The cost of treatment for COVID-19 is an incredible toll. If they survive a positive diagnosis, what long-term health problems will they be battling? What long-term financial struggles will they face as a result? This pandemic is an inconvenience to us — it may cripple them. Not all, but a large portion of this campus comes from wealth. It’s important to recognize that privilege. 

Trust me, I am 100% for students being open and vocal about how horrible this semester is. My mental health has been in absolute shambles since March and I have been complaining about it for just as long. I’m not a student who is “feeling lighter” — I’ve had more anxiety attacks these past few weeks than I had all of last year. Really, genuinely, this semester has been horrendous and I would never tell any student that their struggles aren’t valid or that they shouldn’t voice their concerns. 

I’m not mad that this article is complaining — I’m mad that it talks about these rules like they’re overkill. “The reality is that the Task Force was serious about holding us back in our Gate progression.” And thank God they did! 30-plus close contacts from two positive cases? 30-plus possible positives infecting the town. “This closed, dystopian, big-brother-esque space that I found upon arrival is not the campus I left, nor one that I recognize.” If we were to function like the campus you recognize, this town would be in serious jeopardy. I’m concerned that certain subsets of the study body fail to recognize their privilege in prioritizing party culture over the ramifications of a positive COVID diagnosis. Both physically and financially. 

You told the administration to consider this “failure to launch and the weight that we carry.” Which failure to launch? Our slow progress to each Gate? That was our fault, the student body. Or is this whole semester a failure to launch? In that case, it’s no one’s fault. No other place is doing better at keeping everyone safe. This is the reality of college in America right now and we’re doing better than others. And it’s not like our complaints are falling on deaf ears — it’s just that the school is unwilling to risk the safety of the student body, faculty and townspeople by bending to the will of Colgate’s dependence on party culture. 

And let’s talk about party culture. Greek life on this campus loves its victim complex. And it isn’t just Greek Life, either. Yeah — it sucks that you can’t have parties, it sucks that you can’t do your traditions and I genuinely feel bad for the seniors who are having their last year stripped from them. That being said, I’m concerned about the student body’s dependence on parties for basic socialization. You can hang out with your friends (socially-distanced) beyond the walls of the frat basement. It’s not like we’re all hermits, you just can’t do body shots off of each other. We’ll live. 

While we’re on the topic, “navigating the exclusivity” of this campus is an interesting way to phrase it. “Exclusivity” at Colgate often just means Greek Life. Colgate thrives off of hierarchy and this pandemic has turned the hegemony of Greek life on its head. To lament about the loss of Greek life’s monopoly on this campus is not to describe “how it feels to be a Colgate Student right now.” It describes what it’s like to be a member of Greek life right now. The two are not entirely the same. 

Ultimately, regardless of whether you are in Greek life or unaffiliated, all of our actions have high stakes this semester. It’s not like we didn’t know it, either. The school was brutally honest about what this semester would look like and what the consequences for our actions would be. You knew the tradeoff when you came back on campus. You can see your friends even if it’s under weird circumstances. You signed the agreement. Respect it. 

You complain in your article that this responsibility makes you anxious — trust me, it makes me anxious too. But the insinuation that we’re the only ones that have felt this responsibility, this burden? That our administration has never felt what we’re feeling, that they’re unsympathetic, that they’re just being hard on us for no reason? Look, this administration has a lot to be criticized for, and I’ll yell about it until I’m blue in the face. But that? That’s ridiculous. The administration is just as stressed about this situation as we are. They’re balancing the needs of the faculty, the student body and the town. And on the topic of faculty — be nicer to the professors and the staff. This is just as hard on them as it is on us. 

Our administration has bent over backward to make this semester happen and to keep us safe. They convinced the faculty to learn an entirely new mode of teaching. They aren’t underestimating how hard this is — they just aren’t willing to give in to the irresponsible demands of entitled students who want to party at the risk of other people’s lives. 

Get your head out of the bubble.