In March 2020, when the coronavirus hit, professors and students alike were thrown into chaos. There was the abrupt transition to online classes, the closing of our favorite bars and restaurants and ultimately finding ourselves stuck in the house fearing for the safety of ourselves and the world. Five months later, Binghamton University has found its way into reopening. It seems we are welcomed back with open arms, but under a new set of social circumstances and rules. BU students will experience a semester like no other class has seen before — the question arises if we will have a social life at all.
Randall M-J Edouard, dean of students, sent out an email to students on Aug. 21 emphasizing the importance of avoiding hosting or attending gatherings on and off campus. He reminded students that they are not immune to COVID-19, and disobeying these rules could jeopardize a student’s continued enrollment at the University. In addition, Edouard stated that “the University has also cooperated with the city of Binghamton on a new ordinance, the ‘Social Host’ law.” The law was passed by both the Binghamton City Council and Mayor Rich David and inflicts penalties for anyone found hosting “social gatherings if alcoholic beverages are possessed, served to or consumed by anyone under 21.” Violation of this law could result in a hefty $1,000 fine or a prison sentence of 15 days. It is true that, in theory, no one under 21 should be consuming alcohol, but such a severe punishment in a college town seems unfair. In the chaos that this nation is already experiencing, between police brutality and a global pandemic resulting in limited funds and income for many, other disciplinary options should certainly be explored.
Social life is paramount to the college atmosphere. Arguably, having a reputation for partying can be one of the most attractive qualities to young adults applying to colleges. BU has made its way onto several “party school” lists that surface the internet. For example, Niche.com, an online review site for college-bound students, lists BU as the number eight party school in New York and Barstool Sports lists us as 24th in the nation. Partying in college allows students to meet new people, learn to make smart decisions and create lasting memories. Additionally, partying is often an escape from the rigors of academic life.
Jeopardizing enrollment and imposing fines is enough to intimidate many college students away from partying, but others seem to always find a way. In fact, according to Fox News, the University of Connecticut has already seen surges of college students gathering even though they are being permanently removed from their dorms if caught. A survey conducted by Niche of over 20,000 college students indicated that college social events were the feature of campus life they deemed most important. Although the new rules and laws implemented by schools like the University of Connecticut and BU are meant to be effective in preventing the spread, it is a hopeless feat to expect college kids not to party — especially in a university known for its exciting social atmosphere. BU should not have reopened without proper and realistic preparation on how to handle partying and COVID-19. Instead of working with students to create a safer environment, it appears the University is just looking to impose unfair punishments on partiers as a fear tactic. Only time will tell how this semester unfolds.
Clarissa Del Re is a senior majoring in English.