Supporting College Students in a Covid World

Last Saturday evening the Notre Dame football team upset #1 Clemson University in a double overtime game in South Bend, Indiana. About 7,000 students, all of whom had to pass a Covid test, were permitted to attend the game. When the victory was secured about two thousand, mostly face masked, Notre Dame students rushed the field in a mass gathering of elation and celebration.

Of course, Notre Dame administrators expressed their obligatory disappointment with this gathering along with disapproval of the many house parties near the campus. Notre Dame college students were characterized by many outside media sources as being selfish and irresponsible, even though virtually none of them will have serious problems if they catch Covid.

As a university professor for 45 years, I am sick and tired of this “Covid Demonizing” of college students. It comes from federal, state and local governments, college administers, the news media and even family members. The reality is that college students have paid a disproportionally high price during the Covid pandemic. We don’t want them to socialize but it is fine if they sack our groceries, deliver our food, drive delivery vehicles or mix paint for us at the local Big Box store.

The four years between ages of 18 and 22 are incredibly important for all of us. These are years of social development, where young people push the “reset button” at the end of high school to create and redefine their new selves. Students often come from less diverse towns and suburbs to meet people of other races and cultures in a dynamic conglomeration that will forever improve their lives and the lives of our society. They socialize and experiment with behaviors, good and bad. They are young, relatively invulnerable, and they ROAR. They learn from their mistakes and revel in their successes. It is their natural inclination to socialize and nothing will change this.


As a professor who has lived across the street from a college campus for 43 years it has been my burden to put my awakened babies back to sleep because of stupid, loud, profane yelling and screaming that takes place right in front of my home. I’ve had to cable my lawn furniture to the house to prevent the otherwise certain theft that will occur overnight. Every year college students kick over and break my ceramic pots in the middle of the night. New flowerpots are part of my regular gardening expense each year.

Despite the inconvenience, I love and adore these students. They are kind, caring, respectful, engaged, interesting, and even more naive than they want to admit. They want to learn, and I live to teach them, person to person, in the classroom, as I have done since 1975.

My students have done their best to help by wearing masks and distancing. My heart breaks when I see a college freshman, wearing a mask, toughing it out with mostly ZOOM classes. Why are they even here? Why would they rent a dorm room to be near a campus that does not allow them to enter buildings and discourages them from entering a classroom? Who would want to come to college without the college experience?

Next time you see an 18-year old hanging out with friends without a face mask, I ask you to hold your tongue and keep your opinion to yourself. Don’t disparage or condemn them. They are young people that refuse to live with the all-consuming fear that surrounds them. Maybe all of us could learn from their infectious optimism. Thank God for them.

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1 Response to Supporting College Students in a Covid World

  1. Joakim Palmertz says:

    As always – an interesting bloggpost! And as good as your lectures back at WSU in 1995-1996.

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