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Who am I? My name is Sarah Mora. Behind those two words is a young woman who is passionate, assertive and ambitious, as my Principles of Journalism professor, Rick Brunson, would describe me. If there is one thing I have learned after 20 years of experiencing all that life has to offer, it is to stand up for what I believe in, which is why I’m here right now, staring at my computer screen, typing fiercely, but diligently.
What is this all about? As a sophomore at the University of Central Florida in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic, I was denied not just a whole semester of college, but a chance to experience life in ways that I will never have the opportunity to do again. I was denied the experience of sitting in a 150-person lecture hall obtaining a hands-on experience surrounded by my peers. I was denied the experience of walking home from class and being stopped by whatever group was protesting that day. I was denied the experience of walking into a friend’s dorm and spontaneously deciding that we were going out that night. I was denied the experience of being able to walk into All Knight Study at 10 p.m. to cram for my 9 a.m. Spanish test.
What should I do? This was the question I constantly asked myself and spent months thinking about as I watched the numbers in both COVID cases and deaths rise significantly. After sleepless nights, FaceTime calls with friends and consulting with my parents, I came to the conclusion that I valued my health and safety over a semester of my sophomore college experience. To my benefit, all of my classes would be held over Zoom and although the adjustment was a difficult one, it worked. Like anything new in life, it required adaptation, a crucial survival technique. I figured out how to communicate effectively with my professors through emails and Zoom calls, reach out to peers in my classes with GroupMe, and still maintain a social life, even if it was through a computer screen.
Fast forward to now: As I sit behind my computer switching from one tab to the next, there is still one task I have not completed that should have been done two weeks ago: “Finalize Spring Schedule.” In other words, decide what your future will look like for the next five months. For the past two weeks, these words, which should resemble moving forward, engaging in new experiences and discovering new things about myself, have done the exact opposite: they have haunted me.
As Coronavirus cases and deaths in the U.S. continue to rise, my school, the University of Central Florida, is asking me to return to campus, because of their initial plans to move forward from COVID-19. Despite the immunocompromised, despite the mental instability of those concerned about the Coronavirus, despite the thousands of dollars everyone pays each year, it feels like they are choosing to risk a student’s life because of their incompetence to take all of their students’ interests into consideration. The “majority” does not apply to “all.”
Finally, I want to make this clear: by limiting the options of classes offered online, you are asking me to choose between my health and my education. But what I ask of you is to take a good, long look in the mirror and practice what you preach.