On Oct. 22, you may remember an email from President Nathan Hatch, announcing Wake Forest’s transition to Orange status. Just like you, I was wondering how this change will affect our daily interaction with our friends or even in-person classes.
As Hatch clearly pointed out, this transition means that any activities that may further spread the virus have been paused. After scanning the email, I returned to my daily routines on campus without paying further attention to what this message meant for us.
Many of you reading this most likely have already caught a glimpse of the large orange banners laid out in front of ZSR Library or Benson University Center. This effort made by the university to catch your attention may seem trivial or rather side-splitting, based on what I gather from the two girls walking in front of me one afternoon, pointing to the sign and laughing in mockery.
During the hike of status orange, we had 150 active confirmed cases. While those numbers have currently declined to around 80, that still is too many for comfort. After all, not every student has the luxury to continue school from home if cases get out of hand due to a lack of internet access or barriers that interfere with online education.
I saw a fourth grade student struggle with this exact issue as I was scrolling through the Chicago Tribune. The student was lying on the floor, his back against the wall, using his backpack as a pillow while staring at his tablet. He walks to school even when class isn’t in session just so he can use his tablet because he has no access to the internet at home.
The reason I find this picture so striking is because I was once him. Throughout elementary school and high school, I often hung out at a nearby McDonalds, or I would stick around after school and on the weekends to use my tablet. Even until this day, I still have no internet access at home, although I am lucky enough to have a hotspot on my phone for schoolwork. What I realized though, is that I am still that kid, because this fall I chose to leave my home amidst COVID-19, despite the chances of contracting the novel virus, to simply use what Wake Forest has made accessible for me — internet access.
I share my situation with you not to raise concerns about an issue that is in great need of resolution. Rather, I am communicating that there are many students here at Wake Forest, in a similar situation as me, who made the decision to risk their health and safety because of factors at home that could very well deter them from learning. Once again, not every student you see walking through the quad is here because they want to be here or to attend large social gatherings. Some have no choice but to be here because of adverse circumstances away from campus, and they can’t afford to pack their bags and leave if the school shuts down early.
For this reason, I urge you, my fellow Deacs, to think about how your actions during this difficult time can impact those around you. We all want to make it to Thanksgiving break. We’ve been doing so well for so long. The finish line is right there. Why stumble right when we can see the campus gates close behind us?