Remember being on campus?
The ridiculous foot traffic, the trees and the sunlight; the spectacles in Free Speech Alley; the flowers in the Quad; the lazy kind of hustling, the smokers and the vapers and the skaters and the hammockers; the studying and the not-studying and the late nights, the stale coffee smell of Middleton; the feeling of being there, at the center of everything, at the start of your life…
And then, when lockdown took effect, the feeling of not being there —remember how it changed you? I do. Even those of us who by then had been following the spread of the Coronavirus for weeks in advance were still caught off-guard somehow by the abrupt nature of the switch.
Suddenly we had to go home and figure things out — how to avoid infection, how to shop for the essentials during lockdown, how to make toilet paper last, how to Zoom, how to navigate the rest of the semester, and the foreseeable future after that, when everyone’s plans had just flown out the window.
The University was right to move classes online as well as suspend any other on-campus activities, especially considering the amount of coronavirus cases statewide has since reached over 40,000 even with all of the appropriate protocol in place, but I would be lying if I said the community didn’t suffer as a result.
We did. We suffered, and we lost things in the process. After all, a sacrifice for a good cause is a sacrifice nonetheless. COVID-19 killed our bank accounts, our GPAs, our relationships, our hopes and our opportunities.
It wasn’t just the social isolation, or the fear of pandemic, or the patchwork quality of online-classes-that-were-never-meant-to-be-online-classes, but the amalgamation of circumstance which altogether formed something more than the sum of its parts. Something was just missing — the rhythm of in-person interaction, perhaps, or the feeling of being surrounded by real life opportunities.
LSU — students, faculty, staff, dumpster-diving squirrels — I was lost without you. I think we were lost without each other; we got swallowed up in the midst of everything that’s happened.
But things do seem to be looking up for us, as the rate of infection continues to wane following a spike in cases in early April. According to LSU’s interim president Tom Galligan, campus will most likely be reopening for the fall semester, with the addition of a few minor health and safety measures, such as requiring students to wear face coverings and reinforcing sanitation protocol, to prevent subsequent outbreaks.
Still, that’s a “most likely,” and the other side of a “most likely” is a “maybe not.” It’s an exciting prospect, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves quite yet. We saw in March how quickly circumstances can change in a pandemic. If Louisiana were to be hit by a second wave of COVID sometime between now and August — and it's beginning to look like a real possibility — Galligan’s “most likely” could easily become a “definitely not.”
We simply don’t have the luxury of taking life on campus for granted anymore. So it’s up to us to do everything we can to ensure that a second wave never comes. Even as lockdown restrictions loosen, be vigilant, be smart, be safe — because we’ve still got a lot left to lose.
Grace Pulliam is a 19-year-old creative writing senior from Zachary, Louisiana