We really, really shouldn’t throw parties

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Media: Jakob Menendez

Students crossing the bustling Boylston/Tremont intersection.

By now, you may have heard a joke or two leading up to this semester—something like “off to school for a few good weeks” or “don’t make your room look too nice, since it’ll probably be empty by next month.” And in the middle of this unpredictable year, arguing that the COVID-19 pandemic will surprise us once again and send us home early isn’t a foolish foresight.

But as students, we have to remember that the biggest thing stopping us from finishing our semester on campus may very well be ourselves. 

The student population is entering the school year with more communal responsibility than ever before. Not only will we be in charge of our own health and success, but also we’ll be on the line for the safety of every person—young or old—we see. Members of our community depend on our behavior, which, as young adults, can be a challenging thing to control. 

If we want to see this semester out in Boston, it will come at the cost of giving up our desire to party or gather in larger groups. 

Several other schools have already failed at containing the virus for this very reason. On Wednesday, Notre Dame suspended in-person instruction after an 80-case spike caused by a crowded, mask-less off-campus party. The University of North Georgia is bracing itself for an outbreak, after viral footage of a massive outdoor party circulated on Aug. 17. And University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill students spent last Tuesday emptying their dorm rooms after cases began to surge. 

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As of Aug. 16, four clusters have been identified in different UNC residence halls and fraternity houses. An editorial from the Daily Tar Heel, titled “We all saw this coming,” touched on the disaster and even included the dictionary definition of the word “clusterfuck” in their subheading to describe UNC’s short and disastrous effort to contain the virus. 

So if you step foot into a frat party, stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a group of raucous strangers in a dorm room, or attend an outdoor gathering brimming with people this fall, know you are part of the problem.

All it takes is one unlucky party to create a cluster, which can then lead to dozens—if not hundreds—of infections among students, faculty, and staff members. And nobody knows how many clusters the college will be able to endure before we become the next student body haphazardly tearing down our new posters and fleeing campus. 

While a few positive cases are nearly inevitable on our urban campus, students have an enormous obligation to keep the number of cases at bay. This would not just prevent us from being sent home, but also protect the most vulnerable groups on campus. One night of fun is not worth risking the lives of our immunocompromised students or elderly professors.

Of course, one of the main reasons students decided to return to campus is likely due to the social aspect. After going months without seeing our friends, it’s only natural to want to return to campus and reunite with them. However, these reunions do not have to and should not take place in an unsafe setting, like a party. As much as we may want to, it is unrealistic for any of us to indulge in the social pleasures of the past immediately. We must put our personal selfishness aside and make some sacrifices.

If the moral obligation isn’t enough to drive you, parties this semester may also result in serious disciplinary measures. Vice President and Dean for Campus Life Jim Hoppe wrote in an email this week that students could be removed from campus if college officials find them in violation of safety guidelines. These students will not receive refunds for room and board or tuition if they are removed from campus. Let’s be real, no party is worth thousands of dollars in losses.

Other schools have taken similar measures, like when UNC forced three students out of on-campus housing or when the University of Connecticut evicted a number of students. Northeastern University also clearly isn’t taking the prospect of parties lying down. On Friday, they sent out a stern email to 115 first-year students who expressed an interest in partying on an Instagram poll. 

“This is unacceptable, will not be tolerated, and presents a danger to your health and the health of the community,” the email read. 

A safe fall semester—and the possibility of having a normal spring semester—hinges on all of us doing our part to prevent the spread of the virus. Wear face coverings. Stay away from large groups of people. And hold everyone accountable.

While we laugh at the jokes about the semester lasting mere weeks, we all hope this doesn’t become our reality. Don’t ruin it for everyone.

The Berkeley Beacon Editorial Board is the voice of the student newspaper that looks to serve the Emerson College community with thoughtful insight into ongoings and occurrences affecting their everyday lives. The board’s positions are determined by its members. The board consists of the editor-in-chief, managing editors, and opinion editors. The opinions expressed by The Editorial Board do not impact the paper’s coverage. You can respond to a position brought forward by The Beacon Editorial Board in the form of a Letter to The Editor by email: [email protected].