The weekend of Feb. 11-12 was a quiet one. This was due to the post-Groundhog flu outbreak, and the subsequent campus-wide cancellations of large gatherings.
Though the flu was severe — Dr. Laurette Dekat was quoted as saying that this was the worst flu outbreak in her 15 years at the University of Dallas — one might question whether the administration’s decision to cancel all major events for several of the last days of the outbreak, including all weekend Masses but excluding classes, was the best way to stop the outbreak. In fact, these cancellations may have contributed to its spreading.
UD students are known for going above and beyond in their endeavors, whether that means praying or partying. And the university’s strong element of community has been cited as a major cause of the spreading of the sickness.
In light of this campus-wide unified spirit, perhaps cancelling large gatherings, social or religious in nature, failed to stop the community element from bringing people together.
It seems that very few churchgoing students took advantage of the university-wide dispensation of their Sunday Mass attendance obligation. Students who headed to alternative locations for Mass on Sunday morning reported unusually crowded conditions at Cistercian Abbey, the Seminary and Holy Family of Nazareth due to the sudden influx of UD students.
Practicing Catholic UD students, barring extreme illness, will find a way to get to Mass on Sunday. The cancellations merely caused more crowded conditions at other churches.
The argument has been made that the Church of the Incarnation is attended by many non-UD students, making cancellation a necessity in preventing the flu from spreading to them and the greater Dallas area.
However, if Mass had still been held on campus, with the admonition to skip the sign of peace, etc., fewer crowded situations containing flu-carriers would have been created.
In effect, the well-intentioned policy of cancelling Mass on campus may have done more harm than good.
In a similar way, though hopefully to a smaller degree, TGIT’s popularity likely motivated regular attendees to congregate unofficially in large groups, both indoors and outside.
Given that these gatherings were inevitable, why the inconsistency about the cancellation of classes?
Granted that crowded indoor conditions greatly increase chances of spreading and contracting the flu, why were classes not cancelled, at least on Friday?
This would have made sense, especially since there were reports of great portions of classes being absent due to sickness. In the last week, some professors cancelled classes after falling prey to the various viruses on campus. If classes had been cancelled during the week that the virus had been initially spreading, perhaps this could have been avoided.
English and business comps were cancelled in the spirit of protecting students and professors from sickness, so why didn’t the administration do the same for classes?
Now that the influenza has mostly passed and ailing students, faculty and staff resume their daily routines, one can look back on the past few weeks with a sense of relief.
In the future, it might be wise to pursue a more consistent policy in response to campus-wide illness. But hopefully the UD community won’t see another sickness like this for quite awhile.