I am ashamed.
On Tuesday, I opened Snapchat to story after story of people in line downtown at the bars’ reopening. This is after WVUToday just published data on Monday showing almost 500 students are in quarantine both on- and off-campus. It seems that, no matter what happens to our fellow students and community members, we will not be deterred from partying. Frankly, it’s embarrassing. I have never before in my life been ashamed to be a Mountaineer, but I am now.
As of Tuesday, the United States is far and away the world leader in COVID-19 cases with 5,936,572, per the World Health Organization. They also estimate that we are coming very near 200,000 deaths. In fact, it is even possible that these numbers are vastly deflated, as our rate of new cases per day has very conspicuously gone down immediately beginning when the White House took control of COVID-19 data away from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on July 15.
So, in the face of a mismanaged crisis, which West Virginians are unfortunately all too accustomed to from our own local governments, where does that leave us?
To hijack the messaging of the University, we truly did have the opportunity to Go First. We could have, on a large scale, avoided bars. We could have avoided restaurants, opting for delivery, takeout or outdoor dining instead. We could have walked past our neighborhood house parties. We could have been an example for universities and communities across the nation. We could have gone first. Instead, largely in part due to our own irresponsibility, our own carelessness and our own lack of regard for others, we haven’t.
Instead, I see the same people on Snapchat and Instagram going out week after week. The same house on my street has a party every other night I walk home. We’re sharing drinks and beer bongs and vape pens, not wearing our masks on campus and ignoring professors who tell us to keep them on.
I’ll be honest, there is nothing more I want at this point than to be able to go into Gene’s or Apothecary or Back Door. I would kill to waste $50 on a bar tab and forget my card and have to come back the next day whenever they open and deal with the laughs of whoever’s manning the bar when I go.
I want that as much as you do. Truly.
But by opting to do that now rather than waiting until we get a vaccine, think of how stupid we look. We want to be here, right? We want to be on campus. All we talk about is how much we want to tailgate and have football games back, but we’re the ones making sure that doesn’t happen. We can’t have those things if the University opts to send us home in the face of potential case spikes. We are the ones spreading COVID-19 and forcing the University into making decisions it doesn’t want to have to make.
I know some of us think we shouldn’t be here anyway, so this is a way to stick it to President Gee. Others think, “What the hell, we’re going to be sent home anyway, might as well live it up.” And you know, maybe at another time and in another place you’d be right. But right now, you’re not. I don’t care what your reasoning is for going out and throwing caution to the wind, but it’s wrong.
People are dying across the world, across the country, across the state and in Morgantown. I’ve heard people say, “Well the mortality rate is only 2%, and we can’t hide forever!” That would be 600 people of our student population. So, we’re okay with 600 people dying just because it might not be you or me or your roommate?
Again, I’m ashamed. It hurts me to see a university and student body I love so much face possibly its greatest ever challenge with apathy and a blatant disregard for human life.
I’ve done a lot of recruiting for WVU, and I always tell prospective students the best parts about going to school here are how much we care about one another and how proud we are of being Mountaineers.
I no longer think we care much at all, and I don’t know that I’m proud anymore either.
David Laub is a West Virginia University graduate student in English Secondary Education.