Staff Editorial: As spring begins, enter with empathy

HN Hoffmann

When we started this academic year, many of us held onto hope that this spring would be different. Come January, we could safely gather in classrooms, dorms and dining halls. That’s not the case.

While the introduction of multiple vaccines provides some light at the end of the tunnel that we didn’t see back in September, we are in no way at the tail end of this pandemic. Case numbers are up, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have discovered new COVID-19 variants and Missouri’s population has the lowest vaccination rate of any state so far.

This is all to say that things are still very, very hard. The Washington University community is struggling, and, although it may seem like this has all become a “new normal,” that doesn’t mean it’s any easier. Remote learning isn’t any easier. Isolation isn’t any easier. And the many financial, medical and mental impacts of the pandemic continue to worsen for many people.

That’s why we ask that the Washington University community starts this spring with an important goal in mind—to remain empathetic. While we may have gone through a similar semester in the fall, students, faculty and staff are still going through a tremendously difficult time. Even though we now have experience with remote classes, the challenges they pose have not gone away.

We hope faculty and administrators remain cognizant of these challenges and the toll that this past year has taken on their students. After all, many students are going into this semester feeling burnt out from the mid-break finals period, and the lack of Spring Break will only exacerbate that feeling.

In turn, we urge students to show empathy toward their professors, who have had to juggle many personal and professional responsibilities during this time, as well as the many staff members who show up in person each day to provide students with a safe campus experience. If you’re grateful for someone, show them. Your actions, large or small, can help people get through these next few months. Whether it be by staying patient with others, donating to mutual aid funds or checking in with friends, make sure to let those around you, or those far away, know they have your support.

This also means having empathy for yourself. It’s easy to feel like you’re not meeting your own expectations when you’re struggling. And that’s okay. Give yourself some grace, and remember that keeping yourself and others as safe as possible is still the most important thing you can accomplish as we enter this new semester.

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