Op-ed: A mother’s concern
‘Will my daughter have a hospital bed should she need one?’
It takes exceptional circumstances for a mother to get involved in a university student’s education. Its not natural at this age, unless there is a profound problem. My daughter is studying Global Challenges at University College Groningen (UCG) where tools to create a livable future are to be developed.
She and her fellow students are facing an immediate global challenge with next to no presence or guidance from UCG or the larger University of Groningen community. I was happy to see that on March 5th finally a little more information has been added to UCG’s site.
To what my daughter describes, just about all of her companions are uninformed and in denial about the crisis that is at their doorstep. The ins and outs of basic hygiene measures to take, the necessity to stock food and basic necessities for either a self-quarantine, a bad local outbreak, or eventual supply chain disruptions, basic information as to what to do in the case of illness or the illness of roommates as students are living in community and these issues are delicate and complex and merit forethought.
Planning and preparation are everything in emergency. Would it not make sense to plan in advance while authorities are available and not under the pressure of managing a crisis or sick themselves?
This lack of information and planning astounds me, particularly because a lot of students are foreign and without family support
This lack of information and planning astounds me, particularly because a lot of students are foreign and without family support nor the capacity to understand Dutch TV or radio that perhaps Dutch adults take for granted. Clearly the students need to become aware and need presence and guidance from adults in the community (well beyond the recent information posted on the above site).
The trajectory of this virus has been clear since mid-January when the CDC and WHO announced such. In the meantime, there has been zero interaction on the issue at UCG until recently when I reached out to a professor, who immediately took it upon himself to organize an info session.
However, few students showed to this ‘non-official’ event and there remains widespread ignorance amongst the study body. I would think it sensible for example that a nurse teaches the moral issues of why to self-isolate should even the mildest symptoms appear, the ins and outs of proper handwashing (the necessity of getting all corners and a long rinse, technique that is not to be taken for granted being our primariy defence), go through and answer the many queries about what if I or a roommate fall ill?
In a town of so many highly educated people, did no one find the courage to raise their voice before the 900 Vindicat fraternity students departed for northern Italy?
Practical help such as the availability of delivery from the local supermarket, internet sites with English options for ordering food, supplies and nonprescription drugs.
Does the UCG have a plan? What about the larger University of Groningen?
Psychological theory illustrates that young adults take their cues from adults to understand reality and develop adult skills. It seems the cue is passiveness and maintaining the status quo, despite cases just over the border in Germany and growing numbers daily in Holland.
In a town of so many highly educated people, did no one find the courage to raise their voice in the name of community safety before the 900 Vindicat fraternity students departed for northern Italy?
Is it acceptable that they return from a Corona Virus ‘Orange Zone’ and not attend classes for ‘some time’ pending attendance requirements and take no committent to distance themselves from public life in Groningen with the scientific knowledge available on how many cases in Europe originated in Italy and in light of how the epidemic is progressing there (from where I write this).
From what we know about super-spreaders, (those that transmit the virus at an exponentially higher rate than average) the young may very well be ‘supercarriers’ and spread it extensively. What does this mean to the weaker and elder population of Groningen?
I would hope that the university of Groningen, would be ahead of the curve in both communication/awareness building with the students, as well as playing a role as a primary stakeholder in safeguarding the local community. There is much talk in education about community learning and global challenges, this crisis certainly spearheads both.
Additionally, I would hope that a highly educated community in a vibrant town like Groningen would weigh in the national public health domain that have a very conservative testing protocol, inviting the risk that the health care system collapse in a matter of weeks, which could in turn ex-post require drastic and disruptive containment measures such as those now being implemented in Italy.
Will her roommates understand the seriousness of the situation and begin to take any hygiene measures?
What does all this mean to a mother located in the epicentre of the Corona virus crisis in Europe? My daughter understands that this situation will be long, and is determined to continue her life and studies in Groningen, a city and life she loves but the odds are stacking up against her.
She has an autoimmune condition for which she must take immune suppressing drugs, so I ask myself, when will her roommates understand the seriousness of the situation and begin to take any hygiene measures?
Will they shop for food in crowded supermarkets once the virus is circulating in Groningen? What are the chances that Groningen will not have a violent outbreak if 900 young people coming from an Orange zone in northern Italy are freely circulating town? Will my daughter find a hospital bed should she need one?
If we adults are not willing to model the principles we teach our youth, apply the science that we know and hold our democracies accountable, what is the purpose of higher education? Now is the time to show them the resilience of community and how to face a real global challenge. Because this is one.
Stephanie Cunningham is the mother of a student at the University College Groningen. She lives in Cortona, Italy, about 50 kilometers southeast of Florence.