Rachel Jackson / Nevada Sagebrush
The Mackay Science Building on Feb. 10.

The COVID-19 pandemic has unequivocally disrupted society since 2020, including the pivotal developmental years which are undergrad. 

Back in 2020, we thought we’d only be home for a couple extra weeks. A couple weeks turned to months, and months turned to two and a half semesters of virtual learning. 

Every college student has been affected by the pandemic since its beginning, rolling with the punches in hopes to experience the sort of post-COVID normalcy promised to us when we enrolled into university. First it was masks, then vaccines, all in an effort to combat the spread of the virus. 

We as students of the University of Nevada, Reno experienced numerous changes in both university policies and administration as our institution has adjusted to the pandemic. However, the Nevada System of Higher Education’s latest legislative move seeks to cause reprehensible whiplash to the campus community.

Last month, the Nevada Legislative Commission overturned the vaccine mandate which prevented unvaccinated students from on-campus class enrollment. While there is much discussion to be had about the public health effects of NSHE’s decision, the implementation of the mandate is an undeniable failure of our legislators and university administration. 

For many students, the vaccine mandate acted as a vote of confidence for in-person classes, despite a pandemic resurgence due to the Omicron variant. Now, those students who took comfort in knowing they’d be sitting in a classroom of vaccinated individuals are left to fend for themselves, stripped of the hope they were clinging to for a safe in-person environment. 

And how about those students who spent weeks waiting on medical and religious exemptions before enrolling in classes? Enrollment dates are given specific times for a reason. Classes fill up—even the ones someone would need to graduate on time. The vaccination enrollment hold has been lifted, but those who left their class schedules up to administration are left with crumbs. 

Steve Sisolak, governor of Nevada, lifted the statewide mask mandate as well, causing the university to follow suit. For many students concerned about catching COVID, the fear has evolved into an inevitability. 

Due to directions from university administration, there are no longer hyflex options for students or faculty who have contracted the virus. Becoming infected is now the equivalent of a punishment, forcing you to sacrifice your education for the sake of public health. 

What will happen in a few weeks when COVID cases eventually rise? Will we be sent back home? Will we be forced online? Will Sisolak reinstate a mask mandate? Only time will tell—clearly, we the people are only an experiment waiting to produce results. 

Inconsistent and unclear messaging from those in charge ultimately affects students and faculty on all sides of the pandemic. I urge NSHE, university administrators and our state government to consider the consequences of legislation and policy changes. We’re sick of thoughtless change.

Opinions expressed in The Nevada Sagebrush are solely those of the author and do not necessarily express the views of The Sagebrush or its staff. Olive Giner is a student at the University of Nevada studying journalism. She can be reached at jessicacabrera@sagebrush.unr.edu and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush