Jayhawk Statue (dramatic) (copy)

Opinion columnist Hattie Friesen argues that students will be most responsible for mitigating the impact of COVID-19 once students return to campus.


As the remaining days of summer continue to dwindle, University of Kansas students who are preparing for the upcoming school year must keep in mind how their arrival in Lawrence will affect the local spread of the coronavirus.  

KU Student Housing already announced several guidelines regarding the University’s reopening in August. Some changes include an on-campus mask requirement, reduced lecture sizes and extended time between classes to allow for proper social distancing. However, the majority of the changes that will need to be made fall on the shoulders of the student body.  

With thousands of students returning to campus, a slight increase in Lawrence cases should be expected, but keeping the amount controlled and contained is a necessity.  

From July 3 to July 6, Douglas County saw an increase of 103 COVID-19 cases. Similar surges throughout the state prompted long overdue action from Kansas and Douglas County officials. Over the last few days, new requirements and strategies for battling rising coronavirus cases have been announced, including a Kansas statewide mask mandate, which went into effect on July 3, as well as the two-week closing of select Douglas County bars.

As an incoming freshman, I’m justifiably disappointed that my first year as a Jayhawk won’t look the same as I imagined it when I applied months ago. However, I’m willing to abide by the instructions I am given in order to help derail the escalation of coronavirus. The orders given from KU, just like those given from the city and state, can only provide a partial solution.

In order to keep a lid on local COVID-19 cases, students must value the health of others over their personal comfort.

Social distancing, wearing a mask and washing your hands are all effective and essential behaviors advised by the world’s top health experts. How well students follow these recommendations, as well as the boundaries set by the University, will determine whether or not KU will experience another shut down.

Prying students away from college culture will be no easy task. Schools such as the University of Pennsylvania have introduced several agreements, one of which requires students to no longer organize off-campus events or parties.

Even without a sudden increase in population, Lawrence is already experiencing a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases. The leadership and integrity of college students will soon be in the spotlight.  

The way students at KU handle their new responsibilities will either help heal our community, or contribute to the damaging spread of COVID-19.

Hattie Friesen is a freshman from Olathe studying English and linguistics.