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Opinion: The return to campus is a bad idea — and it will go wrong

No college experience is worth dying over.

But despite a lethal virus encroaching on every corner of the world, plunging it into a global pandemic, Belmont is on the verge of opening its doors for the remainder of the fall semester — a decision that is both patently unsafe and wholly unnecessary for quality learning to take place.

Granted, the school has laid out a plan to limit the risks posed by COVID-19. Mask-wearing will be enforced, on-campus foot traffic will be limited, housing and dining situations will be altered — and every student has the option to participate in the semester remotely, should they wish.

But none of this changes that the safest option is to keep learning remote.

Indisputably, it would put fewer students at risk to have as few people on campus as possible. And the reasons to reopen pale in comparison to the potential danger.

Yes, classes would be more engaging in-person. Yes, staying remote places a financial burden on the university. And yes, it has been months since most of us have seen our closest friends face-to-face.

But no matter how many precautions Belmont takes, opening campus to students will always increase the risk that someone gets sick or dies — and no amount of group learning, university money or pleasant conversation is worth one of us getting killed.

And when I say “us,” I don’t just mean us at Belmont. I mean us as people in Nashville. We’re part of a larger community and a bustling city—one buzzing with people, constantly traveling around our school.

Any of those people could have health concerns. Many of them are doing all they can to avoid exposure to this virus.

But instead of truly accounting for that, Belmont is choosing to play with fire. And it will go wrong, one way or another — just as it has gone wrong for many other schools already.

The University of Notre Dame has already moved online due to on-campus infections. Oklahoma State University has placed an entire sorority in quarantine. And, at the University of Alabama, there have been 500 COVID-19 cases within the first week of reopening.

Universities are reopening, cashing in on housing fees and showing no regard for the danger students are in. Belmont has taken a couple extra weeks to prepare, but there’s no reason to believe things will be different.

Even if every procedure is carried out flawlessly and every student follows every rule — neither of which are guaranteed, or even likely — it is still a risk. A risk this school’s administration implicitly endorses by allowing it to happen.

There is no room for error when lives are potentially at stake. But as it stands, Belmont is choosing to trade caution for greed and hastily reopen before it is truly safe.

And if something goes wrong, and someone gets sick or dies, Belmont will be the university that let it happen.

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