Julia Maher ‘23
On Aug. 7, 2020, after a long period of wishful thinking from students, College of the Holy Cross finally released housing assignments for the fall semester. My friends blew up our group chat, so excited that they would reclaim their traditional, on-campus college experience. Students paid full-price tuition, bought airplane tickets, made arrangements to quarantine if traveling from a high-risk state, started shopping for their dorms, coordinated with their roommates, and mentally prepared to arrive on campus in the fall. The housing assignments appeared to be final, and everyone was ecstatic that Holy Cross made elaborate arrangements, detailed in a long email, to allow their students to return safely to campus, despite the pandemic.
Then, merely three days later, on Aug. 10, 2020, Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J. sent out an email that the College would be completely virtual for the fall semester, unless students absolutely had to return to campus for safety or convenience, like international students or students who did not have resources to attend online college from home. Although this decision was smarter than the decision to return to campus, the timing and layout of their plan was absolutely cruel. Holy Cross led students on with the false hope that they would return to campus in the fall; and then, just three days later, the College announced that only some students could live on campus. Not only was the short turnaround cruel, but the fact that Holy Cross waited so late to outline the College’s safe return plan was just as horrible.
Holy Cross sent mixed signals to students, which caused undue misery and distress and added to their initial stress levels during the chaotic pandemic. The College should have simply communicated to students that they were unsure of their plans, or they should have just decided to go fully virtual in the first place. There was no need for Holy Cross to release housing assignments three days before they decided to go fully virtual. Not only did the College’s behavior affect the wellbeing of students, but it also caused economic burdens for many families, as I mentioned earlier. Many students may have bought plane tickets and shopped for dorm supplies, but then, all of a sudden, Holy Cross did a full one-eighty.
I understand that the COVID-19 pandemic is a very nuanced situation subject to quick and unpredictable change, but during the time between when housing assignments were announced and when the College went fully virtual—three days—the state of the pandemic and its threat to public health did not change that significantly. Students do not need any more chaos in their lives right now, especially not from a Jesuit institution. Holy Cross’ mission statement says, “Holy Cross seeks to build a community marked by freedom, mutual respect, and civility.” The College’s unpredictable decision to go virtual, however, did not show any of these three values. Ultimately, Holy Cross’ demeanor demonstrated a huge lack of respect and sensitivity for its students and community.