by ChiChi Odo ’22

In her second quarantine album, Evermore, Taylor Swift sings “Marjorie” as a tribute to her late grandmother, for whom the track is named. The opening lines read “Never be so clever, that you forget to be kind / Never be so kind, that you forget to be clever.” And though I am not the biggest Taylor Swift fan, I think the chiasmus in this song carries relevance for our community in this challenging time.

Photo Illustration by ChiChi Odo 22

Never be so clever that you forget to be kind.

Through the first week of classes, Davidson recorded 48 positive tests (46 students and two employees). This statistic is more than twice the peak number of cases, 16, at any point during the fall semester. To date, this has included individual spikes in new case totals from 13 to 27 (Jan. 26), 39 to 48 (Jan. 30), and 49 to 59 (February 2nd). As the incubation period for COVID begins to expire for students who returned on the weekend of January 23rd, and although Davidson is enforcing its many protocols, these numbers have again increased this week.

 In the midst of this unprecedented situation, there is anxiety circulating throughout campus about whether cases will continue to spike exponentially, or if we will flatten the curve as we all hope. There is confusion as to where and how these cases are occurring. There is frustration about the infrequency of updates from campus administration, which can lack detail and leave questions unanswered.  There are questions about if we should take more drastic measures: suspend Vail Commons’ dine-in option, cut athletic seasons, stop in-person classes, or send everyone home. And regardless of where I sit on these issues, I have to remember that this is a diverse community of people who hold different perspectives, expectations, and investments in this semester’s experience.

I must consider the senior athlete’s aspirations to finish their athletic career as well as the senior who wants things to return to normal sooner. I must wrestle with the trepidation of immunocompromised professors and students (some of whom have already left for home), others with chronic Zoom fatigue, and those who returned to Davidson after a remote fall semester with greater expectations. I must be cognizant of students who have recovered from the virus, and those who don’t want to test positive. I have to wrap my mind around the mental health of students who yearn for engaging recreational activities, the freshmen who may not have found a sense of community with two semesters of restrictions, and the trauma of being sent back to stressful home environments that keeps some glued to the COVID-19 Dashboard. 

Davidson, the ten perspectives in the previous paragraph may only scratch the surface of our community’s narrative, but they still highlight the complexities of our situation which make administrative decisions difficult. In a trying time like this, when so much feels out of our control, the first line in “Marjorie” reminds us that kindness — the best part of our community — must not leave us.

God-willing, I encourage you to listen, respect, and empathize with different perspectives, to recognize your potential for ingroup-outgroup homogeneity bias, and to never allow your frustration on social media to eclipse your cleverness. If you are a praying person, pray that God would give this campus community the wisdom and fortitude to flatten the curve like last semester. Check up on those in quarantine, because they are a part of this community too. Find ways to thank the 603 employees — faculty, professors, dining staff, and Physical Plant workers — who are essential to our experience. Don’t be too tired to make someone’s day in a breakout room. Though it sounds trivial, kindness — however and whenever you can give it — can make a world of difference.

Never be so kind that you forget to be clever

Though we ought to be kind, we cannot forget that hope is not a plan. We are at a crucial point as a community, and there is no room for people to willingly break the rules. We have to hold each other accountable to wear our masks, stay socially distant, and follow the COVID-19 guidelines. The vast majority of us are already doing this, but we must do so all the more. Meanwhile, we have to remember that the COVID Response Team has a plan. Even when their updates can seem untimely and insensitive, their actions are guided by real-time data. They are constantly monitoring everything from athletics to dining to on-campus classes, and learning from partner institutions, healthcare professionals, and reputable organizations. They are our most reliable resource. 

 Navigating our current health situation is tough. We are all being asked to adapt, sacrifice, and find contentment in a college experience that none of us asked for. We hope that our commitment to each other ushers in a downward trend in cases and the gradual lifting of restrictions, but that doesn’t make this in-between season any less challenging. Whatever this semester holds, let’s get through it together — be kind. In our shared responsibilities, be clever. I hope this article, along with Taylor Swift’s words, provide comfort, encouragement, and perspective for the days to come. 

ChiChi Odo is a junior Psychology major from McKinney, TX and can be reached for contact at chodo@davidson.edu