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A small success in a great task

By Jonathan Meilaender

We have made it. We have reached the end of a strange semester for colleges across the nation—perhaps the strangest semester in the last 50 years. And we did so in an unusual way. We stayed on campus and in person—something that few colleges achieved for the entire fall. Only about half of all colleges and universities started the fall semester online, the New York Times reported, and many have since sent students home or sequestered them in their dorms to take virtual classes.

Credit for this achievement goes to all of you. In my role as a prefect, I have served on the “front lines,” you might say, of Saint Vincent’s efforts to enforce COVID-19 policies. I am happy to report that I was obliged to perform only a minimal amount of enforcing. By and large, Saint Vincent students have made a sincere effort to comply with the standards they promised to uphold. Not everyone is perfect—there are certainly still unnecessary parties happening, as demonstrated by the recent jump in cases. Besides, there’s an unfortunate laxity in following mask rules in some public places. But most students have done their best. In my view, the Saint Vincent student body ranks among the best in the nation in terms of its willingness to sacrifice to ensure the well-being of the college as a whole (and especially those elderly monks, faculty and staff most susceptible to the virus).

“All of you” also includes the administration. I think we can judge SVC’s reopening plan by its results. It worked, despite my initial skepticism. It was prudent and well-planned. It’s even possible that the at-times lax enforcement efforts actually contributed to that success by making students feel that they were dealing with a fair, reasonable institution.

Still, a few words might be in order about what the college can do better in the spring. My primary concern: testing. Saint Vincent does not test quickly, efficiently, cheaply, or even frequently. Ironically, this may have helped us stay open—I’m sure we failed to catch numerous asymptomatic cases. But increased testing is a prerequisite for any loosening of restrictions in the spring (not that I would encourage looser restrictions for the time being). SVC ought to follow Seton Hill’s lead and make provisions to conduct rapid tests on-site.

I’d like to thank all of you for another achievement: your contributions to The Review. The number of student and faculty submissions we’ve received this year is greater than all those received in the last three years combined (sometimes, those numbers hovered around zero). Your contributions have enabled our opinion section to present a reasoned discourse on issues ranging from free speech to COVID-19 policies to racial issues. I have been especially happy to receive

letters and contributions representing such a broad range of views. One-sided discussions benefit no one.

Finally, I’d like to thank two members of our staff: Heather Rieg and Irina Rusanova. Both are graduating this fall. Heather has served as our production manager the last two years. The final product you see on newsstands comes from her mind (and her computer!). I’m especially thankful for her willingness to accommodate my (frequent) last-minute requests for changes or new headlines! Irina has been writing for us since 2018, first as staff writer, then as senior staff writer and now as Arts & Culture editor. She has fulfilled every job with dedication, sometimes frightening dedication, best exemplified by her tendency to submit (excellent!) articles at unreasonable hours of the night. Both Irina and Heather will be greatly missed.

So thank you to everyone—students, faculty and staff. As you return to your homes, be proud that you have done your part in America’s fight against this virus. Be just as proud of your efforts to model healthy, democratic discourse. Now go and complete the battle.

I wish you all a happy and safe Thanksgiving, and a peaceful and invigorating commemoration of the Lord’s birth.

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