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9 Ways to Keep a Social Life While Living on Campus in the Fall

Emily Bevacqua

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Students sitting and reading in a field on a university's campus

Colleges and universities have released Fall 2020 plans with strict rules and regulations to follow while living on campus. Students may worry about how this will affect their social lives at school. With slight adjustments and a positive attitude, students will be able to keep up with their beloved friends.

Every college and university across the U.S. is figuring out how to get students back on campus in the fall.

This means creating strict rules and regulations to ensure safety and good health for each and every member on campus. This also means college life will not be anything like the kind that students know and love.

As August is approaching fast, more and more schools have released news about their Fall 2020 plans. Many academic calendars are starting earlier and ending after Thanksgiving break.

Students are expected to work for 14 weeks straight with no holidays off. It’s no wonder students everywhere are upset; campus life is practically nonexistent.

What is campus life going to look like?

When looking at the fall plans for universities like SUNYs Plattsburgh and Binghamton, UMass Amherst, Syracuse, Florida State, UC Berkeley, Washington State, and more, there are many common rules and regulations students must follow.

Prior to students’ arrival, most universities will require anyone who is living on campus to sign an agreement pledging their willingness to comply with stated behaviors and actions.

This may include wearing masks when outside of the student’s assigned room, submitting daily screenings of symptoms, avoiding large group gatherings, and social distancing whenever possible.

In addition, universities are encouraging, if not requiring, students to test for COVID-19 immediately prior to returning to campus or upon their arrival. The goal is to be proactive in controlling COVID on campus by testing and isolating infected people in allocated dorms.

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The testing plans of many college campuses include testing as students arrive on campus, symptomatic testing, and ongoing and regular testing for everyone on campus throughout the semester. 

Once living on campus, residents are only allowed in their assigned halls. Common areas will have reduced capacity with masks and physical distancing required, and security desks will be staffed 24/7.

On top of these safety regulations, most dorms are not allowing any guests, meaning someone who does not live in that building.

Recently, the presidents of colleges that are part of the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) voted unanimously to suspend conference play until January 2021.

Many other conferences joined the NEWMAC in making this decision, with the health and safety of college communities as the guiding principle.

No decision has been made regarding winter or spring seasons at this time; however, it has been decided by the NEWMAC that competition will not begin until at least January 2021.

Depending on NCAA and NEWMAC decisions on fall sports, there may be a possibility for fall teams to compete in the spring sports season of 2021.

All students and staff are encouraged to limit travel to the local area around their school, and they may be required to report travel outside of a certain mileage range.

Social life on campus will be very different than past semesters. With clubs, activities, and events being remote, and many sports seasons being canceled, campuses are being opened for one reason: to go to in-person classes, if necessary.

How are students expected to enjoy themselves?

No longer will college be the same. No more spontaneous group study sessions or partying until the crack of dawn. If students like to be out and about, they can kiss that lifestyle goodbye.

Concerts and plays are going to be the last social activity to be allowed. Video games, sports, and movie nights will have to be online. Even memories students make at dinner together may be obsolete if dining halls are based on a grab-and-go system.

People sitting and laying in a university campus park, in the middle of several rows of trees
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Here’s what we have left: a bunch of college kids who have been stuck inside for so long it feels like their social skills are nonexistent.

Coming up with ways to still have fun with friends is probably the last thing a student would want to do after a long day of school work. In order to make life easier, here’s a list of nine ways to keep a social life and follow the new rules and regulations while living on campus.

  1. Meals on the Quad. Find a time to grab food at the dining hall and eat outside if the weather is nice. This allows the group to sit far enough apart while still being together. If it’s cold or rainy, find an open campus building and sit in its study area.
  1. Dinner Dates. Sometimes getting together with friends and cooking dinner is exactly what a student needs to end their day. Instead of doing it in person, you can set up a group video call where everyone cooks and eats the same meal in their own rooms.
  1. Hikes. The best way to keep in touch with a gym buddy while the facilities are closed is to go on hikes together. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to find local areas and explore.
  1. Video Games on Group Video Calls. There are a ton of online games that allow friends to compete. The app, House Party, is a great way for people to play Word Racers, Heads Up!, Trivia, Quick Draw, Chips and Guac, or Magic 8 Ball. Mario Kart Tour is available in the app store if it’s not possible to get together to play in person. Friends who live in the same building can meet up in a common area and hook up a gaming console to the TV. Masks will be required, but at least it’s something!
  1. Virtual Escape Rooms. Escape rooms are a great way to bond with friends and work together. There are many escape room apps that are usually done individually; however, you could set up a group call and figure them out together. Here’s one that’s based on Hogwarts from Harry Potter.
  1. Netflix Party. Everyone likes to binge-watch a show. The Google Chrome extension Netflix Party allows friends to do that synchronously from their own bedrooms. It will pause at the same time on everyone’s screen, and it even has a chat to talk in.
  1. Movie Night on Google Hangouts. Many people miss seeing the latest films in theaters. Thankfully, streaming services like Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus have been releasing new films for everyone to enjoy. Set up a Google Hangouts or Zoom call and rent the new releases on Amazon, then split the cost. A bonus of this method is that it will help you save the money you would have spent on overpriced tickets, candy, and popcorn.
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  1. BBQ in a Park.  Who doesn’t like a good barbecue? While the weather is nice, small groups of friends can meet up in a local park for a quick party. If the group is of age, make sure to know the state laws for public drinking.
  1. Get Wasted on Zoom.  If the weather is cold, Zoom is a great way to meet up with a large group of people for a virtual party. There are many games with just a few modifications that can be excellent drinking games. A game based on Cards Against Humanity called All Bad Cards is available online for free. Never Have I Ever, Would You Rather, and Most Likely To are classic party games that never get old. Drunk Pirate is also available to spice up a Zoom call in seconds flat with its hilarious demands on who drinks when. It’s even possible to set up a tournament of Cup Pong through Game Pigeon’s app on an iPhone.

Friends who live in the same building have more advantages than those who don’t. Nowhere does it say people who live in the same building can’t go to each other’s room (unless stated otherwise by the university).

Instead of going out to parties, get a few good friends to one dorm room. Instead of going to football games, set up a small watch party. Make the best of a hard situation. 

None of these activities compare to how college life was before the pandemic. Unfortunately, no one knows when or if things will ever return to normal.

If students keep their spirits up, wear a mask, and follow the rules, college can and will still be fun. Stick together to get the country back on track, and next year, hopefully, college life will return to normal.

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How the Coronavirus is Shaping the 2020 Election

Ian Wentzlaff

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Elderly woman in a white long sleeve shirt, mask, carrying a black purse with her as she walks outside

2020, a year already destined to be recorded as one of the most bizarre times in recent history, adds another layer of intrigue in November: the presidential election will take place in the midst of a deadly pandemic sweeping across the globe.

Voters across the country are entering uncharted territory this fall; individual health concerns about contracting coronavirus will lead many to vote by mail for the first time.

Coronavirus has afflicted nearly every part of the world, but the United States in particular has felt its ravaging effects. The U.S. has accounted for over 200 thousand of the 1.15 million deaths related to coronavirus worldwide.

Another way of thinking about this: one out of every five people killed by the virus was an American citizen. This statistic weighs heavily on the minds of voters in the upcoming election, as the decision to vote traditionally or by mail needs to be made.

There is much confusion surrounding mail-in ballots, and rumors about the likelihood of voter fraud abound. The reality is that voter fraud of any kind is extremely rare in the United States. This extends to mail-in voting.

Causing more confoundment is the fact that voting regulations vary from state to state. Places like Hawaii, where mail-in ballots have been the norm for some time, will presumably have little trouble implementing this method again in this election.

On the flip side, a state like Alabama that only allows voters to register for absentee ballots may find the increased number of mailed-in votes difficult to process.

Yet another wrinkle in the mail-in ballot complex is the necessitation of so-called secrecy envelopes that are required by some states. Further, any vote cast via mail without a said envelope, which are sometimes called “naked ballots,” may not be counted.

However, the need for secrecy envelopes ceased to exist when mail-in ballots began being counted at a separate location from the public polling places, thus eliminating the need for secrecy.

These regulations may deter some voters from opting for a mail-in ballot this election. However, others may fear that the risk of contracting a deadly virus is too great at public polling locations, where thousands of people will congregate.

The virus’s recent resurgence in Europe has led many experts to predict that the United States will also see a spike in the number of cases very soon. This second wave may hit just in time for the election, and that unfortunate timing only adds to the existing fears of voters.

In this upcoming election, no matter which political party you align with or which candidate you prefer in the White House, vote in whichever way makes you the most comfortable.

If the risk of contracting coronavirus frightens you, know that all states are required to allow absentee ballots, and most states support general mail-in voting. Make sure to familiarize yourself with your state’s voting regulations, and most importantly: VOTE!

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Tragic Chicago Shootings Shed Light on Gun Violence

Eunice Park

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A big crowd of people protesting outside of a building against gun violence, while one person wearing a hat carries a sign saying, "Choose KIDS over guns".
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It is absolutely heartbreaking that in the midst of various social movements and a global pandemic, there have been several shootings in Chicago this past week alone. There have been unsolicited and unwarranted attacks resulting in many endangered lives.

With two pronounced dead and more than 47 innocent civilians wounded, this resurgence of gun violence must be addressed immediately and thoroughly.

Although the right to bear arms is instated in the U.S. Constitution, the time for Americans to reconsider the Second Amendment has long been overdue. If anything, we’ve become numb to these events; after countless shootings throughout the past couple years, gun violence is no longer an active topic of discussion.

The lack of conversation around the topic of gun violence is where the problem lies, but it doesn’t have to be this way. People don’t have to accept these dangerous situations or weapons into the U.S. culture and society any longer. People have the power and the right to promote greater change and come to a more agreeable solution.

It is time to weigh some of the moral pros and cons of eradicating the Second Amendment.

Pros and Cons of Enacting More Gun Control Laws

A big crowd of people, majority wearing hats, protest outside of a building against gun violence.
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1. PRO:

It is not an unlimited right to own guns. The Second Amendment states that only those who are “fit” to own a gun should purchase one, and it does not support the “possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.”

Laws that require a permitting process have also been maintained, but could become more strict. This would essentially reduce the number of people eligible to purchase firearms, and hopefully reduce the amount of unforeseeable casualties due to gun violence.

CON:

The Second Amendment also protects the right to individual gun ownership, even if the owner is unconnected with service in the militia. This means that tougher gun control laws would infringe upon the right to bear arms in self-defense, and would therefore deny people a sense of safety.

The police cannot protect everybody at all times. This right dates back longer than some of America’s oldest traditions, and it is these traditions that are the most difficult to change.

A lady with short grey hair wearing a pink sweater and a man wearing a beige shirt carry a sign saying, "This gun owner demands background checks."
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2. PRO:

More gun control laws would reduce gun-related deaths. Between 1999 and 2016, there were a total of 572,537 gun-related deaths: 33,579 were suicides (58.8% of total gun-related deaths); 213,175 were homicides (37.2%); and 11,428 were unintentional deaths (2.0%).

Firearms are also the second leading cause of death for children, with motor vehicle accidents taking first place. Implementing universal federal background checks may be able to reduce firearm deaths by a projected 56.9%. The more gun control laws are enacted, the fewer unnecessary and violent deaths there will be.

CON:

Gun control laws do not deter crime; they deter gun ownership. A study showed that assault weapon bans did not significantly affect murder rates.

These criminals do not, and will not, presumably, obey gun control laws. Resolving the issue of the misuse of firearms will take more than another law enactment; it would require a deep uprooting of future generations’ educations and, consequently, banning the right to bear arms.

3. PRO:

More gun control laws and/or the banishment of firearms will help protect women from domestic abusers and stalkers. Five women are murdered every day in the U.S. by firearms. A woman’s chances of getting murdered increases by 500% if a gun is present during a domestic dispute. Statistics show that between 2001 and 2012, 6,410 women were killed with a gun by an intimate partner in the United States.

CON:

However, not every gun owner is abusive or has negative intentions. Many own guns for recreational purposes. Gun control laws, especially ones that try to ban “assault weapons,” would consequently infringe upon the right to own guns for hunting and sport.

Under the pretense that all hunters are clear-headed and would never turn a gun onto a person, this would be doing the population a massive disservice and inevitably cause more political issues. In 2011, there were 13.7 million hunters in the United States who were 16 years old or older, and they spent $7.7 billion on guns, sights, ammunition, and other hunting equipment.

A giant gun statue with the barrel tied into a knot, in front of a gray building.
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4. PRO:

Gun control laws would reduce the societal costs associated with gun violence. 100,000 Americans who have been shot generate nearly $3 billion in emergency room and hospital charges, and this is excluding the charges of a taken life. With all of this combined, implementing more gun control laws would be doing a massive service to the people, both physically and financially.

CON:

When implementing more gun control laws, there will always be some other type of infringement that follows. Gun control law regulations, such as background checks, ID checks, and micro-stamping, are seen as an “invasion of privacy,” which would go against the Fourth Amendment.

In order to do a thorough background check, the use of a government database that holds all personal information, such as addresses, mental health history, family, and more, would be required.

There are many more pros and cons to gun control laws that are easily accessible on the web, but the recent Chicago shooting has reminded us of one thing: gun control is an important part of the U.S. society and should be taken seriously. 

The Second Amendment is interconnected with other rights stated in the Constitution. As shown, enacting more gun control laws in an effort to reduce gun violence incidents is difficult, and by doing so, it also affects other rights and concerns.

To find a real solution, preserve all life, and respect all rights, the leaders of this country must not only reconsider the Second Amendment alone, but also the entire Constitution.

May those affected by the tragic Chicago shootings find peace and continue to protest against gun violence. At some point in the unforeseeable future, a way to put these travesties to an end will be found.

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How Climate Justice Equals Social Justice and Vice Versa

Hannah Frankel

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A man with a hat and green shirt and a backpack holding a bike, three other people, walking through a flooded parking lot.
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“What is intersectional environmentalism? This is an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies the ways in which injustices happening to marginalized communities and the earth are interconnected. It brings injustices done to the most vulnerable communities, and the earth, to the forefront, and does not minimize or silence social inequality. Intersectional environmentalism advocates for justice for people and the planet.”

~ Leah Thomas (via Intersectional Environmentalist)

With climate change raging ahead at a pace much faster than environmental progress, many of those who are concerned for the future of the planet also feel a sense of urgency to make substantial and lasting change in order to reverse the ways in which humans have destroyed our collective home.

The planet Earth on an orange background with animated hands of people with different skin tones.
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Although academia has attempted to evolve in order to fight back against the growing threat to the health of our planet, it is clear that we, as an environmentalist community, are not making the progress necessary to undo current damages.

Furthermore, there is a harmful tendency in the environmentalist community to be so hyper-focused on climate justice that all other forms of social justice are neglected.

Environmentalists, as an activist community, cannot ignore the fact that marginalized, low-income communities are the first to be negatively affected by environmental injustice. Furthermore, we, as human beings, cannot expect to advance in global sustainability if institutions of higher education are dominated by sexism, racism, and prejudice.

This is not even to mention that low-income, marginalized communities are often blamed for destroying the planet via overpopulation and poor waste management strategies. However, according to Oxfam’s “Extreme Carbon Inequality” report, people belonging to the richest 1% of the globe’s population use, on average, 175% more carbon than someone from the poorest 10%.

Although social justice causes like gender and race equality seem completely different from climate justice, movements such as ecofeminism have arisen from the belief that all forms of oppression are connected, or are symptoms of the same disease.

If we, as a society, accept that humans have the right to dominate and use nature however we see fit, regardless of the consequences, this way of thinking may lead people to believe that certain members of society have the right to dominate others perceived as “lesser.”

As long as we live in societies dominated by inequality, the ruling class can always take advantage of and damage those with less agency, like women, minorities, those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and, even, the environment.

“Intersectional environmentalism” is a term coined by environmentalist Leah Thomas, and it stresses the importance of protecting both humans and the environment from injustice. This movement does not only stress that both ecojustice and social justice are important — it also signals that developments or defeats in one category affect the other.

A sign in a desert that contain green and black text saying "ENTER: COVID-19 TESTING", followed by a note with a construction worker on the far right.
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Take the current COVID-19 crisis, for example. We may not know for sure that the emergence of the virus is an environmental issue; however, we do know that climate change will set off other crises related to food production and the frequency and severity of natural disasters.

The coronavirus crisis has disproportionately affected people of color and poorer communities in America. Marginalized communities all over the world take the brunt of the harm during global crises such as this.

For example, the WHO reported that a hurricane that hit Bangladesh in 1991 killed 140,000 people, 90% of whom were women. Relief worker Rasheda Begum attributes this disproportionate loss of female lives to the rigid social structures that hold male lives above those of women and mandate women to protect their children and property at all costs, thus prohibiting them from evacuating.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, largely affecting impoverished communities that could not afford to evacuate the area in time. These communities, which were made up of largely poor, Black individuals, were left to battle a Category 3 storm without an adequate federal support system.

Mark Naison, a professor of African American studies at Fordham University, has since asked, “Is this what the pioneers of the civil rights movement fought to achieve, a society where many Black people are as trapped and isolated by their poverty as they were by segregation laws?”

Fast forward 15 years to today. We are seeing some of the very same racial and economic factors putting low-income persons of color and indigenous ancestry at a heightened risk of dying from COVID-19.

Due to the high presence of comorbidities and lack of access to adequate healthcare, these groups of people, along with those over the age of 70, are the ones primarily being sacrificed by America’s inadequate response to the global pandemic.

Continuing to exploit the environment by perpetuating reliance on non-renewable energy sources, failing to safely dispose of toxic waste, allowing for a continued rise in global carbon emissions, etc., will put communities with less economic freedom and political influence at a disproportionate risk of death and fatal health complications.

In most cases, unfortunately, those with economic influence are the only members of society that are able to gain political influence, meaning that the people society exploits are unlikely to have any real voice to make positive changes for themselves and their communities. Therefore, it is important that we take measures to combat climate change, as these measures would be effective in the protection of marginalized communities from future environmental disasters.

Social justice is just as vital to environmentalism as environmentalism is to social justice. Diversity of personhood and academic specialization are key factors involved in the success of combating environmental injustice.

“climate change is a man-made problem with a feminist solution,” said Mary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland.

Feminists work to level the playing field so that one gender does not have more power than the others. Likewise, environmentalists work to dismantle the very same systems of oppression and provide a sustainable future for generations to come.

The best environmental policies come from those who have suffered the most from threats like climate change, poor air quality, exposure to toxic waste, and more.

The sentence, "Environmentalists for Black Lives Matter" in different variations of dark and bright colors.
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If environmentalists truly wish to catch up to the speed of climate change, they must take on social justice movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter as if they were their own. All forms of oppression, all over the world, are interconnected; a victory for one marginalized group is a victory for all, including Mother Earth.

One tried and true method for oppressors everywhere is to separate the oppressed, drive wedges between us so that we are too busy fighting one another to direct our efforts where they truly matter.

The environmental movement has always been about more than protecting and preserving the natural world that has birthed and fed us. It is about protecting the world as a whole, including everything and everyone on it.

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