Our View: No, President Bell, we won’t be your PR

Our+View%3A+No%2C+President+Bell%2C+we+won%27t+be+your+PR

The University has yet again made national news, but for all the wrong reasons. CBS News, the Washington Post, and Al.com released articles this week highlighting recent photos of University students and guests on campus waiting to enter a bar with less than 10% of the crowd wearing masks. With classes officially starting this week, the lack of enforcement creates doubt among us all. 

In a recent COVID Conversations video, Vice President of Student Life Myron Pope stated that Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox ordered an extension on the Safer at Home Order until Aug. 31 in order to accommodate returning students. This order makes it a requirement for all individuals within the city of Tuscaloosa to “wear a face covering in indoor public places, outdoor public settings where 10 or more people are gathered and places limits on gatherings.” 

It’s no secret that college students enjoy a night out on the Strip, but when requirements are set in place to protect us all, we must do our part. Whether we are affected by the virus, believe in the requirements or even believe COVID-19 is real is beside the point. In public spaces we must consider all individuals surrounding us. We urge the University and members of our community to take this virus seriously so that we can all return to our tequila shots and Natty Lights in a healthy fashion. 

While we are inundated with emails about virtual rush, Week of Welcome and upcoming football events, the University has failed to be transparent about what matters most. Students with on-campus jobs have been left in the dark since the University closed its doors in March. Initial classroom capacities were much more limited at the beginning of the summer than toward the middle, even as new cases in Alabama began to escalate. Testing transparency has still not been presented to the UA community, with several students stating that they never received the at-home testing kits outlined within the return plan. This pandemic has revealed something we have long known to be true: the UA administration has its priorities twisted. 

On June 15, in a press conference addressing the return to campus plan President Bell warned journalists to “be careful what we publish during this time” and to play our role in keeping the campus safe. It is our job as campus journalists to address accomplishments, opinions and concerns at this University. COVID-19 has forced us all to relearn the concept of community and our roles within it. The change that we are urging the UA community to embrace does not start with our stories or even students wearing a mask to a bar. It is a shift that must happen within each community member. 

Students have taken the University’s requirements as suggestions solely because administration has as well. The return plan has purposely avoided aforementioned important aspects, which leave a portion of the UA population living in uncertainty. It is impossible to return to campus safety if all identities aren’t even important enough to be included in a campus wide return plan. We ask President Bell to do his part in ensuring all students, faculty and staff adhere to the PPE and social distancing requirements. That’s the only way we can truly stay “Still Tide Together.”