I am a freshman here at the University of Oregon. This is my first experience with dorms, college culture and a university class load. This is naturally also my first experience with a global pandemic.
As I read the Daily Emerald this morning, I was struck by the contradiction between Andy Stevens' opinion piece, “COVID-19 concerns are creating hostility,” and the reality that students exhibited on the @covid.campus Instagram account face.
Stevens' discourse on the lack of unity on campus is a valid concern that the student body needs to take seriously. However, his irritation with @covid.campus as an instigator for this tension is misguided.
He points out that @covid.campus doesn’t just host concerns about COVID-19, but about other instances of campus tension as well. To illustrate this, Stevens specifically cites one post submitted by an anonymous community member that recounts how the political climate amplified during the pandemic has made them feel unsafe. They specifically reveal the slurs that a huge group of disoriented frat boys was yelling in the street.
Stevens takes this opportunity to point out that this submission among others is misleading because these strangers do not know the context that those boys were grouped in and that their bigoted actions aren’t connected to any presumed disrespect to quarantine. This leads to his main argument, that “anonymous stories about the behavior of other students does not accomplish” accountability.
However, Stevens misses the hypocrisy of his own argument. Every experience that happens on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic must be taken contextually, and in the current political context, it is reasonable to assume that the large group of students who spill slurs like water are also likely disrespectful of community safety guidelines.
Anonymous submissions from accounts like @covid.campus are not creating hostility. They are legitimizing the individual trauma that each student is facing at UO, because of the inherently political American response to COVID-19 measures.
The way I see it, the social media page is an archive of the real emotions that the student body is feeling, which will be an important tool for healing the cultural trauma of 2020.
Students like Stevens must understand that accountability is not a personal attack on their daily affairs unless they make it to be. As he so eloquently concludes, “If there isn’t any sense of unity or kinship among students during this crisis, it is going to stay that way even when there is no pandemic.” Without outlets like @covid.campus, students would have less ability to voice their concerns and struggles, and they would feel disconnected to a student body that also feels the effects of a global trauma that we are all existing within.
Al Lehto is a first-year student at the University of Oregon majoring in educational foundations.