I understand the difficulty of talking about this subject and my deepest condolences go out to the student’s family, friends and the Gannon University community as a whole. Everyone is aware of the tragedy that occurred at Gannon and understandably, people are angry. As the opinion editor, I feel it is my responsibility to convey the emotions of the student body to the Mercyhurst community. Anna Malesiewski of the Gannon Knight wrote an incredible article displaying students’ thoughts about a terrible situation and said what needed to be said.
The handling of COVID-19 has been botched by universities throughout the nation, including those in Erie, to some extent. Their responses have directly contributed to the mental anguish experienced by the students on their campuses. Many have been quick to argue that universities have done an amazing job by bringing students on campus to have “normal” semesters.
Students do not dispute the difficulties presented by COVID-19. Our frustrations lie in the failure of university administrators to listen to the students they represent. Is it worth it to have a “normal semester” if students have no breaks (with the exception of 3 break days), no flexible work policies, no response when they ask for help and they can hardly do anything they normally would?
Not to mention, Mercyhurst didn’t even give students a choice whether they wanted to be on campus or not. It also goes without saying that students are irritated by the constant conflicting messages presented by universities.
For example, we have been told that it is far too dangerous to gather with our friends in close proximity unless a multitude of factors are met. Many clubs cannot meet in person and you have to set strict appointments in order to take advantage of student amenities such as the recreation and fitness center. In direct contrast, we are still being forced to go to in-person classes. In places on campus, the seating is 6 feet apart horizontally, but vertically it is not.
We can’t meet with professors in their offices, but we are forced to be in-person with them multiple times a week. Students are unable to bring visitors into their residences, but the university has deemed in-person tours and athletes from other schools necessary.
Students are struggling mentally, and all the university seems to care about is punishing students for violating rules. How can students be expected to deal with all of these factors and maintain their mental health?
I do not mean to paint with a broad brush and condemn all university faculty. Some of my professors, for example, created more flexible policies for assignments and gave us time away from class work. Not all those who work for the university have the power to alter the COVID-19 policies, and I understand that. We are simply asking that those who have the power listen to our concerns.
Students have expressed their concerns but were told that there was not much that could be done. This is unacceptable regardless of who may be at fault/whatever the circumstances may be. It is situations like these that directly caused the tragedy at Gannon. I understand that COVID-19 has presented unprecedented difficulties for administrators, but this system is not working, and we cannot continue as if it is.
It is not too late for the university to fix and I have faith that they will be able to do the right thing. The students are demanding action and only time will tell if Mercyhurst complies. The tragedy that occurred at Gannon is a painful lesson that hopefully we are able to learn from and make sure that it does not happen again.