Our View is a staff editorial produced collaboratively by The Rocket Staff. Any views expressed in the editorial are the opinions of the entire staff.
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Since mid-August, the students nationwide have returned to a sense of normalcy with their education, adjusting to Zoom classes and deadline management as needed to succeed this semester.
While we finished this semester without a fall break and most of the in-person activities engrained in SRU’s tradition, we have now approached the much-anticipated Thanksgiving and holiday break. During this annual season of thanks, this staff wants to turn our sincere gratitude to the SRU community members who have led on-and off-campus efforts to respond to the pandemic.
We thank the Student Health Center, which has provided guidance for students who have tested positive and been exposed. This staff has worked 24/7 since the start of the semester to protect and provide guidance to all students in the SRU area. As a newspaper staff, we also thank the nurses and staff, especially Kristina Benkeser, the director of student health services, for all of their openers to answer our own questions for our print publications this semester.
We thank the Student Counseling Center for continuing to operate during this unprecedented time and for setting up support groups and resource programs for those with heightened anxiety over the coronavirus, seasonal depression and moving back home for winter break.
We thank all of SRU’s essential workers who have been reporting to campus regularly, even as the semester total of faculty and staff cases increases. We also thank all SRU alumni who are working in essential services and working through the holidays to ensure we have access to health care, food and other essential items during this pandemic.
And last but certainly not least, we thank all SRU community members who have done their part by social distancing, wearing masks and quarantining or isolating when directed to do so. While we believe these standards are the minimum expectations for going through this pandemic, we understand that these life changes are more longstanding than we originally hoped.
Now, SRU students are about to head home for well deserved breaks, especially during a semester in which fall break was removed and Thanksgiving break now occurs after the end of finals week. Still, we cannot forgot our own responsibility to each other and especially our friends and families back home.
With Butler County being one of the 59 counties in the state with substantial community transmission, we must recognize that the mass student travel back to their hometowns could be opportunities for further spread of the virus. In this sense, we must be mindful that even though most students may not be actively experiencing symptoms, we may very well unknowingly spread the virus to one of our loved ones.
As we prepare to head home for Thanksgiving and the holiday season, we want to make sure we’re spreading the joy this season, not a highly infectious disease. We must continue to follow the same guidelines repeated throughout the past nine months, including social distancing, limiting trips outside the household and limited trips to see people outside our households and (especially without wearing masks).
As we hear about the developments of leading COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna, we cannot relax on our personal efforts to slow the spread of the virus. Time alone will not improve the state of the pandemic. Our own actions and decisions, especially over this holiday break will drive how our local community and state responses to the unprecedented stage of the pandemic.
If we have this lightest hope to transitioning to a more in-person fall 2021 semester, your actions now will decide that future and thus have the opportunity to positively or negatively influence the experiences of thousands.
As we reflect on our first full semester at a mostly-virtual model and act to prevent the spread at our hometowns, we must prepare for the next semester. While students do their part to prepare themselves and each other in anticipation of the spring semester, we call on SRU administration to continue their planning preparation. Especially with the removal of spring break, the staff members of The Rocket have felt the collective exhaustion and burn out that is affecting students and faculty across our virtual campus.
We need a solution to support students’ mental health next semester and limit opportunities for the spread of the virus, and we call on administration to continue these conversations over the break and for students to voice their concerns either directly to administration or through The Rocket’s opinion section.
This pandemic has been far from ideal for our community, but our reflections, actions and preparations now are what is in our power that make the most of our two-month break and the start of our next semester.