The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Some of the current policies at Saint Anselm College are the epitome of that tried failure.
This past year has tested everyone – literally every person on earth. A pandemic few saw coming has devastated many, including myself. I had the unfortunate circumstance of grief after my grandfather caught the virus and passed away- something still extremely tough for my family. There are no words to fully describe the chaos and misery brought on the human race by this virus. Schools like Saint Anselm College, however, gave us hope by taking the great first step in announcing in-person classes for the fall semester of 2020. This well-received news was going to give students the opportunity to see friends again, learn, and escape isolation.
Students knew a lot would be different on campus when they moved back in August, but this was only the beginning. A lot was going to be different arriving on campus this past August, as we the students knew that, starting with move-in. Phased-in and spanned out over 2 weeks, students were constrained to just their rooms and could not eat in the dining halls. After the 2 cases were identified during move-in, the campus was Covid free, with most still in compliance. “Following a surveillance phase when the harshest of restrictions were lifted, the same was true, Saint Anselm was COVID free yet again.”. Inter visitation, however, was not reinstated. Students could not travel within their own dorms, which, unlike other schools, are already segregated by gender. With few alternatives of socialization on campus, some left to get quality time with friends. These actions put everyone in jeopardy of catching COVID, which was spotted shortly after. The rest of the semester, we, the students, never got intervis, and cases continued to grow…
As part of the SGA Student Response Task Force, my fellow Anselmians and I put in countless hours to gather student feedback on the semester and offer solutions in an effort headed up by Student Body Vice President Kevin Chrisom. Let me be clear, this was not a bunch of rowdy college kids simply upset they couldn’t go to the bars. Over the months of work, we heard from over 400 students in student-led discussions and polls conducted on social media platforms. We looked at the data and realized being frustrated at the policies was not a minority view. Almost everyone, spanning grade, sex, major- you name it and we spoke to, was unhappy with how the semester had been going.
In the middle of November, it was announced by pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna that a vaccine had been created and was over 90% effective and possessed few negative side effects. Once we hit December, thousands had been getting their first dose every day, ramping up to a million doses per day by President Biden’s Inauguration. Anyone over the age of 65 in New Hampshire who wanted a vaccine could get one around this time- including the Monks of Saint Anselm Abbey. It would only make sense to relax restrictions for the second semester, right? You would be wrong if you thought so. After rolling out a new color phase policy, where restrictions are either loosened or tightened depending on the phase, once again students were led to believe things might be different this semester.
Once again, cases were contained and isolated during move-in, with few cases following for the first two weeks. This is indicative of the Anselmian community- the vast majority of students willing to sacrifice basic freedoms we had last year to create a bubble. What happened when this bubble was created? Nothing. In an email sent out on February 12th, a Friday afternoon, we were informed by President Favazza we would not be moving out of phase orange, a phase that still does not allow for intervis outside of one’s dorm hall. What happened the week after this announcement? A blistering 17 cases, most likely because students realized our lives would not be changing, like the semester before, and were more than willing to leave campus to socialize. I do not condone going out to bars during COVID, but it is beyond understandable considering the lack of incentives to stay on campus. For students, no matter how hard we try, it feels like nothing will change, as nothing has. The administration may feel good about the status quo, but students do not. The real question is, what will be left when the dust settles on this semester? What has really been provided to students? To this day, we still do not know what it takes to move in and out of the phases. We’ve been here a month! Do administrators not remember who they work for? How much longer will students be subjugated to their “family units”? People are beyond done with the lack of transparency, and the brutal restrictions.
In polls conducted 2 weeks ago by the SAC Student Response Task Force, 52% of students said they had a “negative” overall experience this semester, with 48% saying they were having a positive experience. The same poll was conducted on November 2nd, 2020 with 72% of respondents saying they had a “Positive” experience. That is a 24% swing in the opposite direction. In another poll regarding opinion on restrictions, 89% of students said the restrictions currently in place are “too strict”, with 11% saying they are “too lax”. Both polls combined garnered over 130 student responses. It’s time for this administration to realize the negative effects these policies have on the student body, particularly with both student morale and student mental health (cases of depression and anxiety have spiked country-wide since last March). We all want the same thing- a strong and vibrant Anselmian community. Without that, there is no Saint Anselm College.