Cautiously Optimistic for the Weeks to Come on Campus


Danny Bonsangue, SGA President

Welcome back to the Heights! We are three weeks in (five for the freshmen) and I couldn’t be prouder of all of you for doing what you’re supposed to do, for the most part. I keep saying we are all on a voyage together. The first two weeks of the voyage was just the freshman, and we were all holding our breath and hoping they didn’t hit a rock and sink the SS Le Moyne. They made it through their leg of the journey and then reached the island where all of the sophomores, juniors, and seniors were waiting. They picked us up, and now we’re all on the ship together.

At the time I’m writing this, the numbers look great. We have had nine total cases, with one currently active, eight recovered and back on campus and six in quarantine. Our number of active cases are far from requiring the state to shut us down, and there is currently no imminent threat of running out of quarantine space.

These numbers are no accident. We have extremely competent people at the helm right now: President LeMura, Provost Marina, all of the Vice Presidents, Student Development Staff, and Scott Peterson, our COVID Coordinator. These are the best possible people to be running Le Moyne College at this particular time in history, I truly believe that. They put in place a terrific reopening plan, allotting dozens of rooms for quarantine, testing every single residential student upon arrival, and arranging random testing multiple times a week as well as pool testing of various student populations weekly. Logistically, everything is in place for Le Moyne to succeed this semester.

We can have all the best administrators in the world, which we do, but that would not matter if our students did not also do the right thing. In the weeks prior to our arrival, the national news was flooded with instances across the country of college kids throwing massive parties and visiting crowded bars. This caused outbreaks that led to the cancellation of in-person classes. It was everybody’s worst fear that Le Moyne would be the same way, but it wasn’t. Aside from room visitation rule violations, to my knowledge there have been no violations in terms of packed house parties. I walk around nightly and I talk to people doing what they’re supposed to do.

At this time, the Student Government Association is working closely with the COVID team and upper administration to redesign room visitation restrictions. It’s my firm belief that it is unreasonable to expect to prohibit all forms of visitation. I believe most students are breaking this rule, and that might make us all less safe. The worst part is, if they are not breaking the rules, I fear we are looking at an impending mental health crisis. As it is, a lot of students simply go home on the weekends, lacking things to do. This is bad for students’ mental health in the short run, and their overall socialization skills in the long run. With the counseling center already overloaded, and with mental health issues among young adults on the rise before the pandemic, it could only get worse now.

I have advocated to the COVID committee and to administration—who have both been largely receptive—to reimagine the regulations, if you will. My plan is to set a capacity of visitors in each room, require masks, and require visitors to sign in (for contact tracing purposes). While also leaving the room doors open so that RAs can monitor mask and capacity compliance, but we’ll see where that goes. The elephant in the room, of course, is alcohol. Undergraduate students like to drink more than any administrator is willing to admit, and they are unlikely to hang out in the spaces designated for safe socialization (such as James Commons) if they are looking to drink without getting in trouble. However, that might be a moot point since we have New York State law to contend with.

I am cautiously optimistic—key word being cautiously—about the coming weeks. What I cannot stress enough is how delicate this situation is, how close to the edge we are AT ALL TIMES, and how quickly things can go south. This is the real McCoy—100 cases and its curtains. Everybody has to move in unison, like a Roman legion: no parties, no bars, and wear a mask. Trying to wrangle 2,200 18-22-year-olds to do anything is difficult, let alone trying to stop them from partying. In addition to trying to persuade the adolescent mind to do the right thing, we have the added challenge of this being (somehow) a politically charged issue. I have no delusions, I know that part of the cohort we’re dealing with doesn’t believe this pandemic is real, partially because their parents don’t. Between biology (the dominant chemical in the teenage brain being dopamine) and the hoaxers, we’re fighting a war on two fronts. However, like the Greatest Generation in World War II, I believe we will rise to the occasion and fight this war.

Over this past summer, I read a book by famed Kennedy biographer, William Manchester, called “Goodbye Darkness,” which is about Manchester’s experience as a Marine fighting in the Pacific. There was a part of the book that really stuck with me. After he finished basic training, his mother came to visit him before he shipped off from San Diego. She came to the fence and helped smuggle him off the base and they enjoyed a dinner together before he left. There was no guarantee he’d come home; he would soon be fighting in the most brutal war in recent history… could you imagine what his mother must have felt like saying goodbye to him? What he must have felt like saying goodbye to his mother? To me, it puts things in perspective; we are not being asked to go to bootcamp and ship off to some far-flung place to fight an evil empire. We are all being asked to stop partying for a while and wear a mask. This will end, and when it does, party on! But for right now, we have to survive this voyage together on the SS Le Moyne, so be safe and God bless.