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Campus life and a scary social scene

If you have never attended a major college or university, you may have a false impression of what life on or close to campus is like.

I attended two state universities — Ohio University at Athens and Wright State Univserity near Dayton. OU’s reputation as a party school is well deserved, and I witnessed (and sometimes participated in) plenty of massive celebrations while I was there.

I had forgotten, though, just how rowdy and potentially dangerous those parties can be. I got a reminder on Thursday, when I happened to be on High Street in Columbus for another purpose. That evening, the Ohio State Buckeyes took on Minnesota in Minneapolis, coming home with a 45-31 victory.

Apparently that game was all the reason needed for the entire area around the OSU campus to be flooded with students sporting scarlet and gray — and for the whole neighborhood to be flooded with alcohol as well.

My husband, Mike, who studied at the former Belmont Technical College and former Wheeling Jesuit University, had never seen anything quite like it. Early in the evening, we mostly saw large crowds of students milling about the various bars and businesses along High Street or playing games such as “beer pong” on the lawns of fraternity and sorority houses.

Later, however, we glimpsed hundreds of young people cut ting loose after they had become fairly intoxicated. Some had obviously fallen down and gotten muddy, while others simply clung to each other as they staggered along the street. One young woman attempted to show her companions that she was “OK” by walking with one foot in front of another down a crack in the sidewalk. She did not perform very well, though she did remain upright.

Some were actually watching the football game on TV and cheering appropriately, but by the fourth quarter it appeared that most had become more interested in the party atmosphere and making social connections than in supporting their team.

I don’t want to sound like a fuddy duddy, but it seemed to me that the party was much more wild and extreme than it was when I was in college. Most of the students I saw late in the evening appeared drunk enough for their judgment to be seriously impaired.

I’m certainly not saying that all OSU students were taking part in the revelry. We could see many people in nearby apartments who seemed to be staying at home, doing their own thing. I don’t know how many of them were students, but it was obvious that some must be.

Another thing that caused me concern about the massive party, though, was that almost no one was wearing a mask. We know that COVID-19 vaccination rates are low among college-age individuals, so it seems likely that the virus was able to spread through that rambunctious crowd rapidly.

Ohio State requires students, faculty, staff and visitors to wear masks at all facilities on its campuses when indoors, regardless of vaccination status. The same is true outdoors when social distancing is not possible. But OSU doesn’t own High Street.

Now, the university is requiring all students, faculty, staff and the campus community to receive at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 15 and a second dose of a two-shot vaccine by Nov. 15.

Ohio University has a similar requirement, including for its branch campuses such Ohio University Eastern in St. Clairsville. A full course of vaccination must be completed by students, faculty and staff by Nov. 15.

Some people have been critical of the college mandates, but if you ask me the only thing wrong with them is that they were implemented too late. Of course I understand that the mandates couldn’t really be issued before at least one version of the vaccine — that produced by Pfizer-BioNTech — had received full approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

But, if you had the chance to witness the carefree mixing of the huge number of individuals that I saw on Thursday, You might better understand why colleges and universities simply must require vaccines for everyone.

COVID is not going to go away on its own, folks. And if you don’t trust the government on that point, listen to what a local doctor has to say.

William Brocklehurst, M.D., describes himself as a board-certified emergency medicine physician at Wheeling Hospital and medical director for numerous local emergency medical service agencies. He is a 1987 graduate of St. Clairsville High School, and the “worried parent of school-aged children.”

This doctor recently reached out to The Times Leader, asking us to do all that we can to inform the public about what he terms a COVID “spike” in the region. He said Wheeling Hospital has opened a second pandemic unit due to the increased cases — something that hadn’t been necessary until now. “Nurses are leaving the ER’s, ICU’s and floors in droves,” he wrote.

All children under age 12 are unvaccinated. “I fear (and expect) a collapse of the system when all of the schools resume without a definitive plan other than ‘wear a mask if you feel like it,'” he added.

So, I say to you, please get vaccinated if you are eligible. And please, everyone, wear a mask in public.

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