The first week back on campus has been nothing short of eventful. Typically, the usual excitement of new classes beginning, reuniting with friends, and adjusting back to living away from home is more than enough to deal with when returning to campus. Yet, this week, students were met with an added stress that continues to loom over campus: the drastic spike in COVID-19 cases in the Villanova community.
With the presence of new strains and the general fatigue of dealing with the pandemic, a rise in the number of cases is not surprising. However, that rise should not be in the gravity that we have seen in the last week. By February first, we have accumulated over 244 active cases. Rumors of a lockdown or getting sent home are rapidly spreading, yet the Villanova administration is next to radio silent. Other than a singular email sent by the Vice President of Student Life, Rev. John Stack, that details "if this [positive] trend continues, Father Peter will have no option but to end the semester on campus," there has not been any further communication. Students have been left in the dark, causing a potent anxiety that lingers over campus.
Obviously, no one wants to receive that final email from Father Peter ending the semester on campus, but as a sophomore Villanova student puts it: "the turbulent time our campus is facing stems primarily from a lack of communication to every student."
This student feels that simply "sending emails without any real information regarding what is going to happen opens the door for rumors to run rampant and leaves a greater sense of anxiety all around." Speculation and rumors are helpful to no one. A simple communication from the Villanova administration indicating even the slightest ray of hope or preparing us for the worst could give students some peace.
The Coronavirus Dashboard is public information—it is no secret that we are in the worst shape regarding cases that we have ever previously experienced. In his final comment, the sophomore Villanova student added that "we have seen three consecutive days of 60+ cases and yet we have heard nothing about a chance of lockdown, a stop of in-person classes, or how close we are to being sent home, which is causing a great sense of concern."
In this situation, I would argue the contrary of the common saying, "no news is good news." With this "no news" approach, we are left in a constant state of unknowing with a fear of receiving that final email at any point. Villanova administration should put the rumors to rest by hopefully providing its students with some positive information.
I understand and recognize the challenges that the Villanova administration is going through right now, and I applaud them for the work that they have done so far. I know we are all sick of hearing the phrase, “unprecedented times,” but it still rings true. The administration is at the brink of a tough decision, but it would still be nice to know what our future holds.
The next few days are crucial for our time on campus. Hopefully we can soon put the panic and rumors behind us, but until then, students need to take the threat of leaving seriously.