Well, this could have been way worse. That perspective is how I recommend getting through this story with an apoplectic fit.
Anyway, as everyone knows — or at least should know — the reality of in-person education (from kindergarten right on up through law school) is in a precarious position. Trying to balance the benefits of in-person education with the socially distant demands of COVID-19 is difficult and even when everything is going perfectly the whole situation is just an outbreak away from blowing the f up. And rather than acknowledge this reality, far too many people are acting like nothing abnormal is going on, prioritizing their own creature comforts over the health and safety of others.
So, yeah, let’s get to the story of Party Pal 1L (in keeping with Above the Law’s longstanding tradition of not naming law students so their name is not forever linked in infamy to the ATL pages). Party Pal is in her first year of law school at Notre Dame, and rather than worry about her grades or the pandemic, she’s worried about making friends. And I get it, I do. Maintaining a social life during law school is absolutely vital to a balanced existence during a stressful chapter in your life. But, you know, there’s a pandemic raging.
Anyway, Party Pal decided she wanted to host a party (no, the novel coronavirus has not magically skipped over Indiana). As the South Bend Tribune reports on her efforts to make new friends… and potentially host a superspreader event:
(Party Pal), in an attempt to meet other first-year law students, last week invited them to a bring-your-own-beer “game night” at her off-campus apartment Saturday.
“We don’t have any expectations for precautions so please just do what you are most comfortable with,” Webb posted in the class’ private Facebook group, adding “(we will not be wearing masks).
“Looking forward to getting to know more of you!”
Yeah. That doesn’t seem like a smart move. And it turns out the law school dean, G. Marcus Cole, also thought it was a piss poor idea. When he heard about the planned party, Cole wrote an email to the student body, strongly discouraging the event:
The university’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins, “cited the ability to engage in interpersonal connections and participation in a ‘community of care’ as the principal reasons for bringing us all back to campus for in-person instruction,” Cole wrote. “Nevertheless, the world is not the same as it was when the campus was closed on March 13. It is much worse. The failure of our fellow citizens to take this virus seriously has resulted in catastrophic explosions of infection across the country.”
Cole also warned that the law students’ behavior now will begin to establish their professional reputations.
“That reputation will not be enhanced if contact tracing after a COVID-19 outbreak identifies a gathering orchestrated or attended by you as the reason why this school had to shut down. Accordingly, I hope that you will conduct your off campus activities with the same level of responsibility to your classmates and our community that we are trying to encourage on campus.”
And I mean, where’s the lie?
Now for the good news portion of the story, properly chastised, Party Pal canceled the party. Perhaps belying a future in corporate work, Party Pal attempts to blow the whole thing off as a “miscommunication”:
“Ultimately it was mainly a miscommunication,” (Party Pal) said. “I was trying to express that if we were drinking, our masks would be off. I just didn’t have the means to make it in a bigger place.”
(Party Pal) provided The Tribune with a copy of another invitation she sent to classmates via the GroupMe app, and said that she had failed to update the Facebook post.
“We are definitely going to be taking precautions on our side by having hand sanitizer stations, the windows open, and not having communal snack bowls,” (Party Pal) appears to write in the GroupMe post. “I’m also happy to set up a virtual house party if people want to participate and socialize but don’t feel comfortable attending in person.”
Party Pal says that with her soiree canceled, she’s now working with the administration to “brainstorm some new ideas for how to get to know each other in a safe environment in a safe, socially distanced way.” Which is way better than the open invite, BYOB 1L mixer that was originally planned.
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, and host of The Jabot podcast. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).