Since COVID-19 emerged, American colleges have subjected students to the most strict, unscientific, and unethical mandates in the country. Piling on top of tyrannical federal, state, and local mandates, campus rules have not only been foolish, but destructive.
Without even controlling for comorbidities, the survival rate for Americans under 65 who have contracted COVID since February 2020 is 99.87 percent. Yet my school and virtually all other American universities have used COVID to wield frightening control over their students.
Here are seven ways in which universities have ignored the science, defrauded students, and violated our personal freedoms.
1. We Are Denied Bodily Autonomy
The University of Chicago and many others are requiring experimental COVID vaccination and booster shots as a condition of attendance. Those who do not comply are barred from campus, restricted from attending in-person classes, and prevented from registering for classes.
The editorial board of the Chicago Thinker explained that there are many legitimate concerns about COVID vaccines, including vaccine-induced heart issues, the questionable federal approval of the Pfizer vaccine, and rapidly declining vaccine efficacy.
“Rather than allow us to engage in the inherently personal and subjective process of making our own risk-assessments concerning these novel injections,” wrote our editorial board, “UChicago refuses to allow us to freely consent or decline. Instead, it treats us like lab rats.”
2. We Are Denied the Education for Which We Pay
For more than a year, UChicago subjected its students to remote “learning.” We were finally back in person this fall, but then, just 11 days before we were due to resume in-person instruction, UChicago decided to stall the winter quarter and impose two weeks of online “school.” The university claims it plans to resume in-person instruction on January 24 but has made no promises it will follow through.
UChicago cites the omicron variant as its reason for switching to remote classes, which could last the rest of the school year. While omicron is spreading throughout the country, the recent surge does not pose a threat to our campus community, given it is far less deadly and dangerous than the previous COVID waves. For example, Cornell University recently experienced a surge of more than 900 omicron cases but didn’t record a single instance of severe illness.
UChicago’s remote learning edict is not only unnecessary and harmful, but it also “defrauds students of the quality education we purchased with our tuition dollars,” as the Chicago Thinker’s Editorial Board explained.
3. We Are Subjected to Cruel Mask Mandates
Last month, UChicago’s administration announced that “[l]owering masks while speaking in class is no longer permitted.” But forcing face masks is beyond ludicrous at this point considering the Centers for Disease Control admitted last week that cloth masks, which is the type of face covering nearly all students wear, are virtually ineffective.
Numerous studies have not found a conclusive relationship between mask-wearing and respiratory illness transmission. Even former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who has strongly backed masking in the past, recently said that COVID-19 “is an airborne illness. We now understand that, and a cloth mask is not going to protect you from a virus that spreads through airborne transmission.”
Not only is UChicago’s mask mandate ridiculous, it is actively harmful to deaf and hard-of-hearing professors and students. Declan Hurley, a second year in the college and vice president of the Chicago Thinker, wrote, “In addition to being epidemiologically indefensible, this policy is cruel to deaf and hard-of-hearing students like me.” According to Hurley, the mask mandate “will especially hurt the deaf and hard-of-hearing by barring us from reading people’s lips, muffling people’s voices, and inhibiting effective communication.”
4. We Are Unable to Use Exercise Facilities That Help Protect From COVID
Data shows that being fit and healthy is essential to combating COVID. We also know that individuals with lifestyle-related comorbidities, such as obesity and type-two diabetes, are far more likely to be hospitalized or die with COVID.
Yet universities across America are actively discouraging students from being healthy by making working out as difficult as possible. Currently, the University of Chicago’s athletic facilities are shut down due to the omicron variant.
Even when UChicago’s fitness centers were open this fall, the school forced students to wear masks at all times, including in outdoor and indoor athletic facilities, and even while performing strenuous physical activity, like sprints.
Studies have shown that wearing a mask impairs people’s ability to work out at full capacity and elevates heart rates, increasing “the physiological burden of the body.” The World Health Organization’s “Mythbusters” page reads, “FACT: People should NOT wear masks while exercising.” The WHO explains that when sweat saturates people’s masks it “promotes the growth of microorganisms.”
So the mask mandate in gyms is not not only ineffective, it is hazardous.
5. We Are Forced Into Mental submission
For the second year in a row, the University of Chicago forced students to sign a “Required COVID-19 Attestation,” a lengthy document that demands students click “I agree” to a number of statements and rules regarding COVID-19.
Students are forced to “agree” in writing to the assertion that “COVID-19 poses a serious public health risk.” We also must “agree” to the claim that “my failure to follow the [COVID-19] requirements,” like wearing a cloth over my mouth, “may endanger myself and/or others.”
By requiring the attestation, UChicago openly defies its commitment to academic freedom because the document literally thought-polices students. Indeed, the university decreed that it would deactivate the IDs of those who did not sign the attestation and bar them from university facilities, including the classroom.
COVID poses virtually no threat of death to most Americans and especially not to young adults (i.e., college students). Yet to attend class, we must sign our names to COVID hysteria by attesting we believe it “poses a serious public health risk.”
Students are not “endanger[ing] [ourselves] and/or others” by refusing to submit to the university’s draconian health measures. Again, cloth masks haven’t even proven effective. And rules like mask-wearing and social distancing, which will allegedly “save lives,” are often ignored by the very government and health officials issuing them.
Young adults should be able to decide for themselves whether they want to wear a mask, get a vaccine, or believe COVID poses a “public health risk.” But apparently freedom of thought is too dangerous for one of America’s leading academic institutions, though.
6. We Are Creepily Surveilled
The University of Chicago also appears to be spying on unvaccinated students. As he recently recounted in the Chicago Thinker, Arthur Long, a sophomore at UChicago, was living with one of his football teammates in a dorm room double this September when the housing office informed him that, because he is unvaccinated, he would have to move to a single.
Instead of moving, Long decided to just continue living with his friend and teammate. Soon thereafter, Long was awakened by what he describes as “three exceedingly officious university housing officials pounding on my dorm door, screaming my name.”
According to Long, a friend who happened to be out in the hallway as they approached heard the university bureaucrats say, “gleefully and menacingly, ‘We’re gonna get that unvaxxed kid!’” The university officials proceeded to berate Long for sleeping in an “unauthorized bed.”
“As shocking as the door-banging and yelling were,” said Long, “the underlying reality was yet more disturbing: the university had clearly been spying on me. It made me feel a bit uneasy that UChicago was monitoring and judging where I slept.”
Long’s story is just one example of the creepy COVID surveillance students are subjected to. Most universities have created sophisticated surveillance reporting systems to force students into obedience.
7. We Are Ordered to Participate in the University’s COVID Regime
Last year, UChicago implemented an anonymous COVID-19 violation reporting system known as the University of Chicago Accident Incident Reporting (UCAIR) System. Reportable violations of UCAIR include standing closer than six feet apart, wearing a mask improperly, or visiting each other’s dorm rooms.
Similar reporting systems exist at schools across the country, creating a campus culture of discrimination, social shaming, and harassment. Universities have put students’ class registration on hold, kicked them out of school housing, and even suspended and expelled them for Covid infractions.
“The hysteria around COVID restrictions has bred an environment of such extreme judgment and fear that we cannot even function as normal human beings without being on edge,” said UChicago sophomore and Chicago Thinker senior editor Eden Negussie. “It’s unsettling that people are keeping tabs on you and filing reports for simply living your life.”
Not only is the snitch list an abomination for simply existing, UChicago requires students to use it to turn in their dissenting peers and teachers. Yes, you read correctly. UChicago’s aforementioned “COVID-19 Attestation” form forces students to participate in its Communist-style surveillance system by making students “agree” to “promptly report” fellow classmates and/or teachers to campus authorities for violations of “the University’s safety policies and practices.”
Most adults could hardly imagine attending college under such restrictive and unethical policies. One would think today’s college students would be up in arms over the university administration’s handling of COVID. Sadly, this isn’t the case. On the contrary, most of my peers are all too receptive and compliant to our university’s COVID edicts.
While the surveillance and reporting systems are truly frightening, even the less egregious decrees—like shuttering gyms and implementing mask mandates—leave a damaging imprint on students. We are being brainwashed to not trust our own judgement and think for ourselves. Young adults know we are not at risk of dying from COVID, yet we are being taught to deny science and submit to the autocratic, ‘omniscient’ university administration.
When generation COVID leaves college and starts running America, we’ll all suffer. My peers are largely desensitized to the oppressive rules encroaching on their personal lives and individual freedom. Their willingness to submit to tyranny scares me. And it should scare you, too.
*The views expressed in this article solely represent the views of the author, not the views of the Chicago Thinker.