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UMD Student's View: How many students' deaths are we willing to live with?

Aaron Roessler.jpg
UMD student Aaron Roessler

As I write this, the University of Notre Dame has just closed in-person instruction after 146 students tested positive for COVID-19.

Sure, only 1% to 2% will die, right? That’s the sentiment many share. Just one or two — or, at most, three — students, right? Three members of our campus community gone. But we can live with this, yes?

I cannot even begin to count the number of emails I have received as a student from the University of Minnesota Duluth administration about “student safety” and how the school is “student-first,” usually followed by the idea that somehow we are going to be able to return to in-person instruction. Really? This is something we can live with?

In spite of an expected vote Monday to postpone face-to-face instruction and move-in dates at three U of M campuses, including UMD, one question keeps popping up when speaking with my peers: Why can’t we take a year off? We all just agree that higher education can take a year off so that students don’t have to worry about risking their lives for a “quality education.” We keep returning to the same answer: money.

Ask yourself: With a virus this contagious, why do we have students returning to campus? Why is on-campus housing still supposed to be open? The answer is too easy: Housing has bills to pay. The only reason we have entertained this idea of returning to campus is so that incoming freshmen decide to come to campus.

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Higher education is an industrial complex unto itself, and as soon as we accept this, the conversation becomes much different.

I’ll bet you three things for sure: The checks from UMD students are going to clear, there is going to be a campus-wide outbreak of COVID-19, and President Joan Gabel and Chancellor Lendley Black are going to have to live with questions about student deaths.

Is the permanent damage that could be done to students worth it?

Can we live with this?

Aaron Roessler is a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

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