Social norms we should throw away after coronavirus

Senator Ron Johnson (left) elbow bumps Ken Cuccinelli (right), acting secretary for the Department of Homeland Security. Photo courtesy of ABC News.

DOUGLAS ROCHE III | ASST. CULTURE EDITOR, SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER | droche@butler.edu

Oof.

I found myself equally blindsided, stunned and confused by the exponential explosion of the coronavirus pandemic. I became addicted to seeking out any new developments about the virus, always maintaining that sliver of hope that an end was in sight. As things continued to escalate and the precautions being taken multiplied, I became overwhelmed by the surplus of coronavirus coverage. 

I have realized the coronavirus pandemic has taught me how much I overlooked a “normal” reality. So, now is a perfect time to view the world from a critical standpoint — that way, we can do a better job to keep each other safe and healthy.

Eventually, the world is going to be normal again. Once it does, we should leave these social norms behind. Below are five ways we ought to go about normal, everyday life.

Butler should revamp its absence policy for sickness

Butler University professors often have a precisely mapped-out, strict attendance policy. Most students will take a course where the syllabus states they are allowed two unexcused absences, and all other missed classes require justification like a doctor’s note. Otherwise, a third absence will go unexcused and could potentially penalize the student’s final grade. 

This policy does have benefits, such as the fact it highly encourages students to be in class instead of banking on the internet to teach themselves the material 12 hours before an exam. It also plays a role in the sense of investment many students feel their professors have for them. Conversely, this has created a conflict of interest between the individual student and the course as a whole. That is, students feel like they cannot afford to miss a class session without falling behind or risking their final grade being deducted an entire letter. 

Allowing more flexibility for absences will ensure the class as a whole remains healthy by allowing for more leniency when a student is sick. It can be difficult to book an appointment at HRC Health Services, and a walk-in at IU Health Urgent Care in Broad Ripple is not a logistically or financially viable option for all students.

Although it could be perceived as just a marketing ploy, Butler is in fact a caring community. Students will look after each other and catch their classmates up to speed. Grabbing notes from a friend or visiting your professor during office hours are not daunting tasks, and skipping an extra day could save an immunocompromised peer much more hardship than you will ever experience by staying home. 

Do we really need to shake hands with each other?

In the midst of the coronavirus chaos, people suffering from sweaty palms can let out a sigh of relief. The coronavirus pandemic will result in people losing confidence in one another’s personal hygiene habits — all for the better, I might add. It would be a stretch to say society will throw away hand-to-hand gestures such as high fives, fist bumps, or “dapping each other up” in their entirety. However, now is the time to question how necessary it is in professional etiquette that we shake each other’s hands. 

All of this hysteria has me thinking: why is the handshake even necessary in the first place? While the likelihood of American’s adopting the bow — traditional in Korea, China and Japan — is unlikely, tapping each other’s shoes, a head nod or a simple wave should suffice when meeting somebody for the first time. 

After President Donald Trump declared the coronavirus a national emergency, he stretched out his hand to his peers in what he described as a habit. It will be the responsibility of younger generations to get rid of this gesture altogether, as we are more susceptible to socially habitual change. 

Smoking products will stick around, but passing them around shouldn’t 

Maybe students should stop passing around that $1 nicotine stick like a hot potato at Landsharks. 

Part of me wishes I could be around after this semester so I could see whether or not students continue to blithely swap spit through their e-cigarettes. Common sense would hint towards the dissolution of this practice, but drunk undergrads can be dumb. 

Nicotine addictions and the coronavirus do not seem to have any correlation, but there is reason to believe that smokers experience exacerbated symptoms of coronavirus because of their unhealthy habits. The FDA states shortness of breath and fever as two potential symptoms of vaping-induced respiratory injury. So, there is reason to believe a history of smoking or vaping may worsen the effects coronavirus has on the respiratory system. 

This could also be the end of students passing around a bowl of tobacco as they binge their favorite FX sitcom on Hulu, which is great for local business. Stores like Head Lines Smokes and The Magic Bus in Broad Ripple could see an uptick in business as students abandon the  communal device for their own personal tobacco — or herb of preference. Stop sharing and support local business!

Remote work is going to skyrocket, and Butler should be okay with it

Butler University does not typically grant credit for remote internships. A Collegian writer covered this over a month ago, but I wanted to reiterate it now that a good chunk of the country is working from home in their pajamas. Both of my internships were on-site, but I implore internship-seeking students — particularly in a writing-focused field — to seek out an internship that does not require a daily commute. 

The coronavirus has forced millions of Americans to set up shop in their place of residence in accordance with state-imposed lockdowns and the public push for social distancing. According to Quartz, 5.2% of Americans worked at home full-time in 2017. According to the U.S. Census, 4.3% of workers did a majority of work at home in 2010. The role the internet plays in our daily lives today is drastically different from 2010 — Zoom, which was founded in 2011, did not even exist yet. 

Another factor to consider is whether or not you are profiting from an internship. According to The Wall Street Journal, 43% of internships were unpaid in 2017. Although this is down from 50% in 2013, the American workforce and academia are still several years out from throwing away the concept of the unpaid internships entirely. 

Even if a company offers a stipend, these opportunities will ultimately take at least a small portion of a student’s savings due to commuting expenses. Eliminating a commute altogether allows students to invest the time they spend in rush hour elsewhere, whether that be for their studies or self care. 

Learn how to be efficient when tackling projects and responsibilities in the comfort of your pajamas — now is a great time to test this out. 

An increase in sanitary barriers

Do you really want to grab onto that shopping cart handle without some sort of barrier between your hands and the handle? What about pulling open that door or sitting in that plane seat before wiping it down? It took the deaths of thousands, but society is beginning to collectively understand the importance of personal hygiene. This will never again be overlooked after coronavirus.

Automatic doors will be installed into buildings, a hand sanitizer dispenser will be available as you await your seat at a restaurant and people will actually begin to call each other out for not washing their hands after using the bathroom — I get nauseous even thinking about the fact this was something people did and were okay with. 

After the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic infected more than 8,000 people across 29 territories beginning in 2002, Hong Kong increased their emphasis on public hygiene due to fears of an outbreak similar to SARS — which killed 299 people in the territory — happening again. Fast forward to the coronavirus, and Hong Kong was able to respond much quicker to the virus than they could in 2003. 

After nearly 53,000 cases, 685 deaths and the abrupt halt to life as we know it, Americans will follow suit with an unforgettable fear of a pandemic like this happening again. Perhaps this is a silver lining to the year 2020, which a lot of people long to be over already. If there is one thing to take with you when the clock strikes midnight on Jan. 1, 2021, it is that personal hygiene, a “normal” reality and the importance of a federal pandemic response team cannot be overlooked. 

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