College campuses are becoming insane COVID-19 security dystopias

The kids are not all right. On college campuses across the country, alarmist administrators are subjecting students to insane, dystopian COVID-19 restrictions — with no basis in science or care for the consequences.

The Ivy League is littered with examples, as Reason’s Robby Soave extensively documented in his reporting. Brown University just banned students from any gatherings of more than five people, indoor or outdoor, with masks required at almost all times and acts as innocuous as eating in the cafeteria now prohibited. Meanwhile, Yale University has told students to wear masks when other students visit their dorm rooms, Soave reported, and Harvard University has advised students to keep “close contacts to a minimum.”

In the most insane Ivy League example, Columbia University recently restricted student social activity by reprogramming student access cards so that students can only get into their own residence halls. Meanwhile, Stanford University has threatened to shut down students playing basketball if they do not wear masks while actively playing. (As a former basketball player, I’d argue restricting airflow during this kind of intense cardiovascular exercise sounds extremely unpleasant and perhaps in itself dangerous.)

Not be outdone by the Ivy League campuses, other colleges are similarly going overboard. Soave also reported on the stunning example of Oberlin College, which recently imposed an indoor and outdoor mask mandate that applies to students at almost all times. This comes despite outdoor spread of COVID-19 via brief social interactions being almost nonexistent — and in response to just one confirmed COVID-19 case on Oberlin’s campus.

To be sure, pseudo-security measures this extreme aren’t being implemented at every college. But many campuses have some serious restrictions in place, and the above examples aren’t outliers among elite universities.

Some might wonder: Even if this is all a bit excessive, it isn’t better to be safe than sorry? While an understandable impulse, this perspective fails to see just how unnecessary and harmful these restrictions are for young people.

For one, there’s essentially zero increased safety actually being accomplished with these measures. Many college campuses, including almost all of the aforementioned ones, have instituted vaccine mandates, meaning that almost everyone on campus is vaccinated against COVID-19. While it’s still possible to contract the virus, the vaccines all but eliminate the chance of serious illness requiring hospitalization or leading to death. And that’s not even mentioning the fact that, statistically speaking, people ages 18 to 24 are at minimal risk from COVID-19 to begin with.

Given that nearly all professors, staff, and students have been vaccinated and that most of the campus population isn’t at risk to begin with, there’s no clear safety benefit from any of these restrictions. But their social and health costs are tremendous.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 young adults contemplated suicide during the height of the pandemic lockdowns in 2020. Reports of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues have skyrocketed. By confining college students to their dorms, depriving them of social contact, and scaring them senseless, it seems almost certain that we will further fuel young people’s mental health problems — and possibly lose more lives to suicide as a result.

It’s also extremely counterproductive for campuses to do things such as restrict sports and close gyms. Young people face serious health risks from obesity, and ironically, obesity is also a major risk factor for COVID-19. In their dogmatic effort to keep students “safe,” administrators may actually worsen their physical and mental health.

With reality, science, and common sense alike all clearly pointing against this dystopian, heavy-handed approach, why are colleges sticking to it? Well, elected Democrats and liberal media figures continue to push doomsday rhetoric and COVID-19 restrictions. And the sad truth is that many left-wing college administrators may care more about virtue-signaling their support for this political narrative than about doing what’s truly best for their students.

This article originally appeared in the Washington Examiner. 

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Brad Polumbo
Brad Polumbo
Brad Polumbo is a libertarian-conservative journalist and co-founder of Based Politics. His work has been cited by top lawmakers such as Senator Rand Paul, Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Pat Toomey, Congresswoman Nancy Mace, Congressman Thomas Massie, and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, as well as by prominent media personalities such as Jordan Peterson, Sean Hannity, Dave Rubin, Ben Shapiro, and Mark Levin. Brad has also testified before the US Senate, appeared on Fox News and Fox Business, and written for publications such as USA Today, National Review, Newsweek, and the Daily Beast. He hosts the Breaking Boundaries podcast and has a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.