The day WSU junior Taylor Ono flew back home to Hawaii for Spring Break, the university announced that it would finish the spring 2020 semester at a distance.
“I couldn’t come back to Pullman to move my things from the sorority house where I lived due to COVID-19,” the creative writing student said, instead relying on friends to do so.
Ono faced a difficulty decision with whether to return to Pullman for the fall semester. She’d already signed a lease for an apartment and viewed living away from home as vital to her growth and development as an independent adult.
Ono ultimately returned, and upon hearing about the Cougs Cancel COVID campaign through her sorority’s group chat, signed up to be a part of it.
“I definitely knew that there were going to be a lot of college students coming back to Pullman with a mindset stuck in life before COVID-19,” Ono said. “I want to be part of a community that’s not stuck in that mindset, a community that is responsible and considerate of others.”
Cougs Cancel COVID is a student-driven effort to promote practices that keep members of the WSU community healthy. Among these practices: wearing masks, maintaining six feet of physical distance, frequent hand washing, staying home if sick and attesting when visiting campus. Students assisting with the campaign are known as Cougs Cancel COVID champions.
“We collectively have the ultimate goal of promoting risk reduction in our community at any and every turn,” Tony Collins, a Cougs Cancel COVID champion, said. “This task covers many different creative forms that we as champions are to create and spread messages that reinforce positive behavior and educate members of our community.”
The 17 student workers accomplish their goal by making posts on social media as well as doing research on safe practices and preparing presentations and graphics for students.
Ono and a couple of her fellow students ventured onto campus earlier this month to talk to people, at a safe distance and while wearing masks, about their thoughts on the response of the administration, the community and students to COVID-19. The people they talked to were critical of students in particular.
“There’s an ongoing stigma but it’s important to spread the message that it’s not young people versus the rest of the community, its responsible people versus irresponsible people,” Ono said.
In addition to addressing that stigma, it’s vital for students to hold one another accountable, Nikolai Sublett, a neuroscience pre-med sophomore involved in the campaign, said.
Sublett is the vice president of communications for the Residence Hall Association. He felt he needed to live on campus this fall to shore up his academics.
“On-campus you have places to go to study, but at home you’re right next to your bed or a T.V.,” he explained. “My mind is wired to where when I’m at home, I’m on vacation.”
Getting involved in Cougs Cancel COVID was a matter of promoting safety as a student, which can lead to their peers being more receptive. Cooperation and consistency are key messages Sublett works to emphasize in his video messages.
“Individually you can’t cancel COVID, when we work together that’s when you’ll see progress,” he said. “We also have to stay consistent,” Sublett added. “COVID-19 isn’t gone until it’s gone.”