COLUMN: Dear Universities, how much does safety really cost?


Katja Benz

Katja Benz, Columnist

I’m sure you’re all aware that we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. It doesn’t seem like the pandemic will be wrapping up anytime soon, especially since we all still have to wear masks to class, events and even the gym.

I took a gap year for the 2020-2021 school year so I didn’t have to pay thousands of dollars to only go to in-person classes two days a week. As much as I hated living with my parents another year, I at least thought it was better than living every day in fear and the inability to go out and meet new people.

To be frankly honest, I’m not sure if this school year is any better. Aside from COVID-19 cases being on the rise, there are so many impacts of the pandemic on the world we know today.

My mom, who is a teacher, told me that the coronavirus cases at her school took up ten percent of the population. And for a school with a decent student population, that’s quite a big chunk of both students and staff.

What’s worse is that I can tell how burned out she’s getting. All she wants is for schooling to go back to normal.

And I know that everyone is feeling that burn out too. We miss everything before the pandemic turned the world upside down.

I looked at the Eastern COVID-19 dashboard today. Between January 9 and January 15, there were 352 positive coronavirus cases between both students and staff here.

That’s a little scary. I thought, and was hoping, that our numbers would be a bit lower.

I was hoping the number of cases around the country and in Illinois would also be lower. Especially because I know I don’t want to deal with the repercussions that would come around if things got as bad as they were almost two years ago.

And what freaks me out is it’s almost like universities and colleges around the country no longer care that the pandemic is still a thing. Just like primary and secondary school educators, college and university personnel seem to be getting burned out.

At that point, it almost doesn’t feel like I’m safe anywhere. It’s not required to get the vaccine, and it wasn’t required to do the shield testing when we returned for break.

Both of these things were expected of students and staff, even though I thought that the SHIELD testing would be required as a bare minimum.

I always took the word expected to mean required, even though that didn’t seem to be the case. Which made me question the importance of student safety.

If universities across the country aren’t requiring the vaccine and trying to transition into a more normal college experience again, then how are students expected to stay safe?

They can’t, and that’s a bit of a problem. Even though everyone wants to go back to normal, we can’t unless the pandemic is really over.

And we can’t do that, unless less and less students choose to come to college. That, unfortunately, isn’t an option in today’s society.

I know this is a hard situation for everyone and all I want is to make it better, even though I’ve done everything I can to keep myself and others safe.

And I know many other people are being safe as well, but there’s also a number of people that aren’t.

Which begs the question of who has to compromise more: students having to compromise their health in order to get the education they need to live or universities who are unwilling to budge.


Katja Benz is a junior English major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]