I can’t fall asleep at night but when I do, I can’t wake up in the morning. Everything hurts. A dull ache all the time, everywhere. My jaw is clenched and my eyes are too close to the computer screen in my makeshift office. I feel like my body has aged 40 years since March. I’m depressed and mean and unmotivated to do any work but it just keeps coming and none of it will ultimately be rewarding at all because I work in college housing and that’s a very bad idea right now.
If I didn’t have a dog to walk I wouldn’t leave the apartment at all and I am actually fine with that because I feel mostly safe, but that’s only because people haven’t moved in for the fall. I say mostly because there are contractors and operations people doing repairs throughout the building and from time to time I see them, and they aren’t wearing masks like they are supposed to here. And if our employees aren’t doing what they are supposed to when they think no one is looking, why do we expect college students to act any better? I know I don’t expect it. I get criticized for my negative attitude but I’m just seeing things as they are, and making common sense predictions based on what I see and know about people, not to mention what the summer students at numerous institutions have already proven for me.
Our work revolves around one set of assumptions, but that set changes nearly every day so these months have been wasted creating plans for realities that don’t exist because everyone knows what the safe things to do are, but those safe things are going to cost money. They are going to lose money. The top is fighting so hard to change as little as possible at the bottom in the name of financial solvency and I’m sure it’s laughable to look at it from the outside and wonder why we don’t just “call it” and say remote learning for the foreseeable future. April, May, June, July are a graveyard of plans that seemed good at the time but were thrown away when changing reality repeatedly hit a brick wall with the willfully obtuse. Why do I even keep working on these plans? Because I’m lucky to have a job? A job that will probably give me a ton of furlough days soon? Or layoffs? Or kill a few of us?
Now, students and families have caught on that even schools that seem to have a solid plan really don’t have THAT solid a plan. They’ve run out of patience and they want answers that don’t change. They want price reductions, they want the perceived value of what they are paying for, they want to live in the halls with others who will act reckless even though we will be the ones blamed when the students become ill. In all things, they want special accommodations because of their circumstances, but only the accommodations of their choosing, not accommodations that are reasonable and possible. They want to talk to a manager about when COVID-19 will stop fucking up their college experience.
The success of our colleges and the “traditional” college experience (which isn’t really that traditional and no longer exists) hinges on a face mask, bottle of sanitizer, and the personal responsibility of each student and employee on a campus. I’ve already seen that fail on a small scale during the summer. I don’t have faith.