My younger twin-brothers were shipped off to Georgia Southern a couple weeks back, over-ecstatic to begin their freshmen year of college. They were among the seniors this year to have a delayed high school graduation ceremony. They did eventually get one in the middle of the summer, though it was socially distanced of course with everyone masked up. My brothers spent most of their summer cooped up at home with my mother relishing every last available minute they had together.
So, no surprise, they were overjoyed to escape my parents’ clutches and finally have some freedom. And shockingly, they failed to strictly adhere to social distancing guidelines and wound up catching Covid-19. Now, they and all their buddies are stuck quarantined in their dorms. A university staffer delivers food to their door each day. Dry chicken with a side of unseasoned vegetables, which one of them described as “worse than prison food”. The universities forced students back with on campus-housing requirements, then act shocked when college students act like college students and get sick.
College offers undergrads two types of education, formal and informal. While student’s formal education has been mostly unperturbed by Coronavirus, their social education has been greatly affected. Most Greek-life organizations have postposed rush till spring. Clubs and organizations have suspended meeting in person. Bars and restaurants are closed. College is meant to be a time when students can break out of their shells and really grow as people. Covid-19 has stunted that growth as students are forced to stay in their dorms and learn from a distance.
The reintegration of college classes amidst the pandemic has unsurprisingly gone horribly. There are tens of thousands of confirmed cases already and that number is rapidly climbing. Many people have reasonably asked why many universities are requiring freshmen to still live in college dorms and pay for meal plans amidst the pandemic. The answer from universities seems to be, “umm, money”.
There was a time when American universities and colleges were first and foremost a place of learning. Make no mistake, universities now are above all a business. Their primary mission is to gouge as much money from students as possible. In addition to meal plans and on campus housing, students frequently have to pay for busing/transportation and parking, a recreational fee, athletic fee, technology fee and the list goes on. Not to mention the textbooks, which are often created specifically by the universities and only available at the campus bookshop at full price.
It has become common amidst the pandemic for colleges to offer classes both virtually and in-person so that they can still charge for all the in-person amenities. One of my friends, who’s taking a UGA business class virtually from home, still had to pay over $1,000 in campus fees despite never coming to in-person class and being off-campus. UGA is also still charging full price for its meal-plan despite the quality and selection of food dramatically dropping. Whereas before, the mess halls were open buffets offering a wide-array of food, now most of the food-stations are closed and meals are packaged and premade. It’s a grab-and-go system where students wait in line and are handed food like they’re at the local soup kitchen.
Universities may flaunt their high-minded ideals but at the end of the day, they’re motivated by their own selfish interests same as any other business. No one should be surprised that when given the choice, they chose a half-measure that would least affect their pocketbooks.
Griffin Hicks is a staff writer for the Reporter. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.