Editor's note: Due to privacy concerns, the editor who wrote this letter has chosen to remain anonymous.
While I tried my best to have the utmost caution for COVID-19, I found myself feeling ill on a Saturday night. By Tuesday afternoon I had tested positive for the virus and was on my way to the isolation wing in Neihardt Hall.
Throughout my 10 days there, I became increasingly disappointed with what I was witnessing. The selfishness, ignorance and lack of respect displayed by some of the students was frustrating beyond belief. The absence of supervision led to chaos and complete disregard to safety regulations, which was a huge cause for concern.
On a Friday night, some students took the opportunity to wander down the streets of campus to have a “karaoke night.” Since they were coming in and out of the building unmasked, it was safe to assume they remained unmasked outside until they saw an outsider approaching. One girl said to me, “Don’t worry. We shout to them that we are positive and to stay away,” which seemed counterproductive.
While we were allowed to go outside for fresh air, there were guidelines put into place to ensure we do not spread the virus including mask-wearing at all times and 6-feet of distance between you and non-infected people. Many times this was disregarded.
We had a fire drill one night, and some students still failed to wear their masks. There was not even the courtesy to move far away from the firefighters as they entered the building, leaving them to walk to a cloud of germs.
The cautionless behavior didn’t stop there. That same Friday night, a non-UNL student who had already recovered from COVID-19 was brought into the building to join the fun. Though there is a camera near the entrance of the wing, it is clearly not being used to monitor who is going in and out.
This kind of behavior is dangerous and selfish. These students are putting others at extreme risk in the interest of their own Friday night. God forbid they wait until the next week when they are no longer contagious. Though I did end up contacting someone from the UNL Public Health Advocacy Team about the misconducts I witnessed, all that resulted from it was an email reminding students of what isolation means.
Most of the students down my hall seemed to be freshmen so, to a degree, I understood. No RA for a week? It’s a dream come true. You can do whatever you please and be as loud as you want. However, this is an isolation hall. There are sick people here who, frankly, feel like crap. Hearing you and your friends down the hall talking and laughing with the door wide open until 2 a.m. is not exactly what they need while they are trying to rest and recover. Congrats to you for feeling well and energetic enough to do so, but some of us were not so lucky.
While you may have no one watching your constant move, you should still carry respect and sympathy for the others around you. Knowing that I had nowhere else to go to escape the chaos around me created a panicked, almost claustrophobic feeling, which became overwhelming and unsettling. I’m sure I wasn’t the first to feel that way either. This is an extremely inappropriate time to try and carry on with life as normal. This isn’t a vacation; this is isolation.
Overall, throwing caution to the wind because you ended up testing positive is irresponsible and shows the lack of care for others around you. It’s not going to help us stay on campus or get past the pandemic any faster. Not to mention, there are people on campus who could be at more risk than you, with more health complications.
Another concerning factor about my experience was the fact that I wasn’t entirely sure we had to self-report to the university. Throughout the testing process and even after I got my results, it wasn’t emphasized enough who I needed to contact and that I would be forced to move to isolation housing. I found this information through my roommate’s boss, an employee of the Women’s Center.
I feel that the transparency from the university about positive cases within on-campus housing is not up to par. I was housed with around 30 other students, many from University Housing. I have followed UNL’s Twitter page fairly closely and didn’t see any mention of cases in Abel or Sandoz Hall, though many of these students are residents of those halls. I have only seen reports on the suites and Greek houses. It is especially crucial to report on the cases within Housing when those students utilize communal bathrooms and dining halls, but it seems that information is not being relayed to students.
My point for writing this letter is to warn the UNL community of the unseen aspects, to tell you the things that aren’t being communicated and to request accountability. It is important for people to know the depths of these issues and what is happening around our campus because it was not what I had expected.
We have to do better to get past this, and every action you take counts.