I want to share some of the reasons I’m grateful to be a Zag this year.

First, I would like to thank the Gonzaga administration team for its decision to remain open for both the fall and spring semesters. It would have been easy for them to close their campus to all students, forcing all of us to pursue instruction in a Zoom-only environment.

However, doing so would have come with the cost of cutting us off from each other since any social interactions would only last for the duration of the lecture.

Once the decision to come back to campus was made, GU made every effort to achieve a sense of normalcy. Students are still allowed to eat in public locations, such as the COG and Cataldo, albeit with modified seating areas to maximize safety. SpikeNites still occur most Fridays, giving students the perfect opportunity to take time off and hang out with friends.

While making us feel like we’re experiencing as normal a year as possible, GU has continued to do everything in its ability to keep us safe.

At the start of this semester, the university conducted regular random screening tests of 20% of its on-campus students to prevent virus spread. They have also implemented a helpful culture of mask-wearing based on the ideals of protecting one’s neighbors.

What I’m most delighted about are the relatively low infection rates we’ve seen as a result of these measures. As of Feb. 20, only 426 Zags, staff and students, have tested positive for COVID-19, according to GU’s COVID-19 Tracking Metrics website. This number is equivalent to 5.84% of GU’s total enrollment count of 7,295 students.

I’m also glad that GU is doing better in terms of infection rates than other universities. For example, Washington State University is currently sitting at 1,945 positive cases out of 29,686 students, a 6.55% infection rate. Similarly, Santa Clara University an Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities institution like Gonzaga has accumulated 362 positive cases from its 9,015 enrolled students, totaling a 4.02% infection rate.

I want to acknowledge that my gratitude toward GU is based on experiences I’ve had while here. As I mentioned before, people have contracted COVID-19 and have had to go into quarantine for several days. Close contacts, roommates, friends, classmates, etc. have also been forced to isolate and quarantine.

I also acknowledge that my experience was shaped by the fact that I have been on-campus during the fall and spring semesters. I really feel for the students who could not come for either or both semesters, especially the first-year students who will only really have the “college experience” this semester or their sophomore year.

I know that these privileges have significantly impacted how I have viewed my on-campus experiences this year. I also know from conversations I’ve had with other students that many strongly disagree with me because of our differing experiences.

What I want to call attention to is the effort of GU to accommodate all of us during this time. Every decision that is made takes all of us into account, aiming to ensure that we all have the best GU experience possible.

In the end, I’m grateful for the great year that I’ve had here, and I know that it will also get even better from here. For me, it really is a good thing to call myself a Zag.

Red Kwenda is a staff writer. Follow him on Twitter at @RedKwendaWriter.

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