Opinion: Handling COVID on campus

Author: Annabeth Briley


I was lucky enough to retain my on-campus job from last semester for this fall. On my first day back, my boss and I had the conversation that just about everyone was having with each other, the questions we’ve all been asking like, “We’re back, now what or we’re back, but how long will it last,” but also, “should we have come back at all?” Now, as a selfish college student who missed her friends, her dorm and just being on campus, my immediate response to that last question is a strong yes. But as someone with a sister that is immunocompromised and family members in the medical field who risk their lives daily helping treat patients, I see the other, more responsible answer, that no, we should not have come back. 

But talking to my boss gave me a new perspective. I work for Notre Dame’s Cake Service, a seemingly silly and small business run by SAO. I write birthday cards and distribute cakes, cookies and other treats to students whose parents want to give them a proper birthday celebration — even if they live too far to celebrate in person. With the COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent closure of campus last spring, my boss said the little bake shop we order our goods from had to lay off half of its staff. Notre Dame was one of its biggest customers, and with campus shut down, they lost a lot of commissions. The nice man who always asked how I was doing as he delivered the baked goods for that day’s orders to me had been laid off, along with many other people. 

My boss is a resident of South Bend. She loves Notre Dame more than anything and stressed to me how important it is that we are here. She told me that even though Notre Dame was very good to its employees and paid them full time over quarantine, if campus closes again their jobs would not be secure. Like that little bake shop, Notre Dame could make cuts and many people could potentially lose their jobs. And consequently, the question of whether or not to reopen campus this fall is not black and white. But that question doesn’t really matter anymore. The fact is, Notre Dame did reopen and did choose to bring us back. Now we have a new question to face and answer: What are we going to do to help make campus as safe as possible so that we can all be here in the place we love?