As the Binghamton University community navigates a return back to school, a team of students has come together to educate their peers on safety during the coronavirus pandemic.
The COVID-19 Student Alliance is a student-led effort aiming to inform BU students of the importance of working together, wearing masks and avoiding social gatherings to prevent an outbreak. The alliance is not chartered by the Student Association (SA) because it hopes to work within housing community governments.
Max Kurant, organizer of the group, vice president of service on the Hinman College Council and a sophomore majoring in sociology, spoke about the message he hopes to spread by creating the alliance.
“Our message is this: this sucks, this isn’t fun, we know,” Kurant wrote in an email. “But, everyone getting sent home again and spreading this virus to their communities — friends, family members, so many people who may be vulnerable — is a lot less fun. And we all get it: we feel isolated, bored, we have nothing to do, we feel we have the right to be regular college students. But what about all the people who have the right to not live out the rest of their lives on a respirator?”
Kurant described the fear he experienced during the height of the pandemic that led him to consider the creation of an alliance. By utilizing his position as a student leader on the Hinman College Council, Kurant said he could approach students in less intimidating ways.
“I’m from Queens,” Kurant wrote. “I live right next to a hospital. I was at the heart of this outbreak and it was terrifying. [Over 23,000] people died in New York City, I even know someone who lost their father to COVID-19. I don’t think a lot of students fully understand how bad this virus really is, and I felt that if students hear it from other students, then this can really have an impact on what students choose to do this semester. There are real voices here who don’t want to see tragedy befall their community or themselves. I’m trying to amplify them and connect to students. This organization isn’t made to enforce rules or to tell students what to do, but to tell them why it is actually so, so important to stay safe.”
The alliance has been working to connect with several different community e-boards to spread its initiative through social media. The campaign aims to share student stories and statements about the importance of working together to prevent an outbreak. To submit a statement or story, students can fill out a Google form.
“Once this is out, we really need students to share this to spread it to our entire community,” Kurant wrote. “While we are taking this one step at a time and currently focusing on this media campaign, we are also connecting with more and more community governments and student organizations as we go and creating potential future plans, such as working to create events in coordination with M-HOPE [Mental Health Outreach Peer Educators] and REACH [Real Education About College Health] to host open discussions with students on how they’re ‘really’ doing now, how to stay safe on campus and more.” .
Luke McNamara, a junior majoring in history, is a representative of the College-in-the-Woods community government. After the Hinman College Council contacted him, McNamara decided to collaborate as an opportunity to let students’ voices be heard.
“I’m a part of the [College-in-the-Woods] Council E-Board this year and the Hinman [College Council] reached out and proposed the idea,” McNamara said. “I really liked the sound of students having some voice in this crazy semester.”
Although the alliance is still in the early stages, McNamara hopes to see it grow to be a campus-wide initiative for not just students, but faculty and staff too.
“I hope that having an entirely student-run organization will help fellow students realize that the rules this year are more than a top-down directive from the administration and that they have a place to voice their concerns,” McNamara said. “I also hope that they take away the fact that we can only all stay on campus if everyone, from staff to students, works together.”
For returning students like Frances Wallace, a junior majoring in integrative neuroscience, the idea of students banding together during these times seems like a practical way to make sure everyone is involved in the process.
“Coming back to [BU], I was nervous about a rise in cases and the possibility of me catching [COVID-19],” Wallace said. “However, I am glad that there are students out there like those who created the alliance that are trying to combat the problem as a student population to keep us safe and others in the community safe. I hope we can keep our cases at a minimum and get through this semester so we can try and get back to normal in the future.”
Students seeking to get more involved with the alliance can fill out this form.