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Haverford Is Failing Its Most Vulnerable Community Members

Editor’s note: Opinion pieces published in the Clerk represent only the views and ideas of the author.

Several circumstances on campus have urged me to write to you all and ask for one thing: help. In 2012, I was diagnosed with HLA-B27 positive ankylosing spondylitis, a form of inflammatory arthritis characterized by several things, including a specific pattern of vertebral fusion caused by the immune system attacking joints in the spine. Since this disease is caused by immune dysfunction, many treatments inhibit various immune pathways. Two of the medications I am on do this, making my disease less burdensome but also leaving me with a weakened immune system. However, as the COVID era has taught us all, immunosuppression comes with its own risks; the unfortunate reality is that the Haverford community is not adequately protecting itself or its more vulnerable members.

In writing this piece, I hope to add to the campus conversation and remind us that the decisions we make right now can have devastating consequences for others. I simply ask this: are partying and other irresponsible activities really so important to our college experience that we will allow them to threaten both our ability to have a full in-person semester on campus and our fellow community members? Should the answer be no, then why has no one been sent home as a result of irresponsible behavior? It is no secret that these events are taking place, nor is it a secret that Campus Safety is capable of identifying at least some portion of the participants, so why has no one been sent home? Or, if anyone has been reprimanded, why has the college not made that public? Personally, I think that spreading that news would disincentivize partying far more effectively than our current switch to Level 2 status.

The crux of the issue is this: will punitive administrative action against students violating guidelines help? While there is no guarantee it will solve the problem in its entirety, I do not see another option. As it stands currently, the student body does not fear individual consequences—rather we fear sweeping administrative retribution against the collective student body. While I believe that the latter fear is certainly necessary, what about personal accountability and individual consequences?

Another pressing issue is that of campus visitors. While college policy dictates that they are not permitted on campus due to their ability to bring COVID to campus, on a brief walk I saw no fewer than seven people who had entered campus from the surrounding community using an unattended entrance to the nature trail. Even if they were off-campus members of the Haverford community, two of them had their masks off, one of them within a group of Fords who were running on the nature trail. (It’s worth noting that this happened directly in front of Campus Safety.) This story should frighten everyone who reads this and genuinely believes that COVID is a threat—let alone those of us who are immunosuppressed or otherwise at higher risk of serious COVID-related consequences. That being said, what should frighten us more than Haverford becoming increasingly unsafe is the fact that these dangerous behaviors are being tolerated.

Finally, given all this, one would think our testing protocols would be more rigorous. Yet we don’t start testing until September 21. This left a two week lapse in screening. Given this testing infrastructure and the numerous potential sources of infections, do we really think moving to Level 2 is a sufficient response? As it stands, this “Level 2” state (which is different from the one officially outlined by the school for this phase) allows for Bi-Co travel and Level 1 athletics, outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people, and even in-person class attendance. Does that seem reasonable given the administration’s current testing plan? Do we think that the administration’s slap on the wrist response is enough? Do you all genuinely feel safe on campus?

Many of you are likely wondering why I have not left or did not stay home in the first place. My rationale for returning was that I expected much more—both from the student body and the administration. The reality is that should things not change, I will have to leave campus. However, this is not an option for everyone, and for the sake of students, staff, faculty, and all nearby residents, we need to do better. As I said, I am reaching out to you all for help: acting responsibly and asking for more from the administration can help protect us. Change is needed if we wish to stay.

This op-ed was written by Matt Hogenauer ’23 with the assistance of Lexie Streicher ’23 and Federico Perelmuter ’21.

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