This blog post is a part of a series dedicated to highlighting the personal experiences of Maguire Center student staff member Rylee Bailey’s personal experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the second post of a three-part mini-series that highlights her return to campus.
About the football game…
The college experience encompasses more than just academics and living in a dorm for four years of your life. Extracurriculars, outings with friends, and sporting events all make up the social scene of college life. When I returned to campus, I found myself considering the various ways I could maintain friendships and a social life as close to normal as possible. I eventually decided that I would socialize with a group of about six to eight friends throughout the semester to cut down on close contact with others. These friends agreed to maintaining transparency with each other about possible exposure, and so far, not one of us has been contact traced, quarantined, or placed in isolation housing for testing positive for COVID-19.
While my group of friends and I are all doing what we can to mitigate risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19, we understand that other fellow college students might not practice that same level of social responsibility. And honestly, I can’t blame them. College is all about plunging into freedom and adulthood, but it’s hard to experience this freedom while adhering to the protective policies put in place to mitigate risk of contracting COVID-19. Some students have rebelled. It is easy to blame these clusters solely on students as it aligns with the recklessness and vanity often associated with university students. However, these students are wired to take risks. During adolescence and into adulthood, the brain region most sensitive to social rewards – the amygdala – develops at a much faster rate than the frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for rational, consequence-driven decision making. This imbalance drives college-aged people to make riskier decisions. Students also rely on social connections to build their identities. Along with earning a valuable education, college is about belonging and finding the people who will become lifelong friends. Peer approval is increasingly important in the college experience, so I think it is only natural that students take these risks to make friends. While I do not believe that it is ethical or wise for students to go party and risk spreading COVID-19, I think it is human nature driving these decisions rather than selfishness and vanity.
As many might have seen on the news, the entire student section was forced to leave the SMU vs. Memphis football game Saturday, Oct. 3 because a group of students failed to adhere to social distancing guidelines and mask policies. I was among that crowd sitting in the student section. Students gathered in a cluster of what looked like almost 100 people near the wall of the south end zone pictured in this Dallas Morning News article. I was sitting about a dozen feet away with my friends, and all of us wore masks and followed all COVID-19 protocol put in place by SMU Athletics. Despite our compliance with the COVID-19 policy, were still wrangled up with the rest of the student section and told to leave.
While the actions of these few students are incredibly irresponsible, it is wrong to preach the belief that all SMU students are deliberately putting others at risk. Some might make bad and unwise decisions but making the generalization that all SMU students are wealthy, entitled, and financially privileged is an untrue and inaccurate representation of the university I have known and loved since I was 8 years old.
This incident furthered the narrative that all SMU students are rich and entitled and lack respect for human life. However, as someone who attends this university completely reliant on financial aid, scholarships, and has tens of thousands of dollars of student loans in her name, I was hurt by the headlines. While the actions of these few students are incredibly irresponsible, it is wrong to preach the belief that all SMU students are deliberately putting others at risk. Some might make bad and unwise decisions but making the generalization that all SMU students are wealthy, entitled, and financially privileged is an untrue and inaccurate representation of the university I have known and loved since I was 8 years old. While some students might live with significant financial privilege (just like at any university in the U.S.), stereotyping all students who came to SMU dependent on financial aid is an insult to their hard work and dedication to the school. Contrary to this dominant narrative surrounding this story, I believe all Mustangs would never deliberately put each other at risk of contracting a deadly virus. They might make a few wrong decisions, but to say that SMU students want to put others at risk is an inaccurate description of me and the student body I represent.