According to the Princeton Review’s 2021 rankings, the University of Delaware is now the nation’s No. 2 party school. Since the university has fallen from its No. 1 spot, which it held in 2019, many have coveted a return to the top position.
Despite the disappointment that may accompany second place, we must ask ourselves as students, do we really want to be the nation’s top party school — or a party school at all — during a pandemic?
Most parties occur in enclosed and crowded spaces — the perfect environment for the spread of coronavirus. Some involve the consumption of alcohol, further prompting students to remove their masks and engage in risky behavior.
On the campuses of colleges and universities that have opened at or near full capacity, fraternity, sorority and other off-campus parties have caused spikes in the number of cases.
The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, the Princeton Review’s pick for the nation’s number one party school, decided to have students return to campus and is now suffering the consequences. Within the first week of classes, it reported more than 1,000 positive cases of coronavirus. Much to the dismay of their administration, photographs on social media show University of Alabama students crowded around Tuscaloosa bars. There are currently no plans to move students off campus.
The Review commends the University of Delaware for its decision to hold most of its classes online. This decision has reduced, and will continue to reduce, the number of parties simply because there are not as many students on campus to attend them.
The City of Newark is also being proactive in protecting the community against the threat of off-campus parties. As of August 24, the city has operated under an ordinance limiting indoor private gatherings to no more than 12 people and outdoor private gatherings to no more than 20. Those who are found to be in violation of the ordinance may be subject to fines and community service.
While the university’s and the city’s actions have greatly deterred many from partaking in the typical party scene, they are not enough.
On Monday, August 31, three university students hosting a 75-person party were the first to be found in violation of the ordinance. The party was in a private residence on Annabelle Street. Not all those who were in attendance were cited under the ordinance — most students fled upon the arrival of the Newark Police Department. The occurrence of this event demonstrates that there is only so much official policy can do to limit partying. For some, a night out is well worth the risk of a fine and community service.
Ultimately, students and students alone must make a decision to act responsibly. Right now, that responsibility includes not participating in large gatherings, wearing masks and treating coronavirus with the level of seriousness it requires.
As of Sept. 3, there are a total of 17,653 positive cases of coronavirus in Delaware. The infection rate is approximately 1.86%. Once infected, the mortality rate is approximately 3.43%.
The highest number of cases in Delaware falls within the age range of 18 to 34. While the people in this category do not often experience the adverse effects of the coronavirus, they are fully capable of giving it to others. In August, the World Health Organization warned that people in their 20s, 30s and 40s are emerging as drivers behind its spread.
It is easy to look at the statistics and decide to gamble. However, what happens when you are that 1.86% that contracts the virus? Once in the 1.86%, what happens if you fall into that 3.43% that dies from it? What happens when your closest friend or family member does? Deciding to risk your own life is one thing, but deciding to risk the lives of everyone around you puts not only your friends and family in danger, but the community as a whole. Exposing yourself to coronavirus at a party will only increase those chances of infection and death for yourself and everyone you come into contact with.
In matters of life and death, we must look at the people rather than the numbers. Then we can decide whether or not it is worth the risk. Chances are, it will not be.
It is a common misconception that the university exists in its own bubble when, in fact, it plays a large role in the city of Newark. Off-campus parties do not just affect university students, but also Newark residents living nearby.
Given the current circumstances, partying simply cannot continue without harming the University of Delaware community and the Newark community-at-large. Students therefore have an obligation to keep their Newark community safe.
For the sake of classmates, professors, loved ones and the community, students must be the ones to advocate against partying.
The Review hopes to dispel notions of invincibility to coronavirus and to reinforce that we are all operating under extraordinary circumstances. As the pandemic continues to rage, it may become easier to ignore the peculiarities of the time and resume “normal” activities, such as participating in large gatherings or going into public spaces without wearing a mask.
We must remind ourselves that this is not a normal semester, so we should not be pretending that it is. And if you must party, wait until the pandemic is over.
The Review’s weekly editorials are written to reflect the majority opinion of The Review’s staff. This week’s editorial was written by Kelsey Wagner, associate news editor. She may be reached at email@example.com.