Letter: Skeptical of Cal Poly’s required COVID-19 testing, ‘ritualistic rules’
To the editor,
–If I may, I should like to point out a few things in response to your article on Cal Poly’s handling of the coronavirus. I say so without any political dog in the fight: I did not vote in the last election, nor do I intend to vote in this one.
I read in the SLO Tribune that President Jeffrey Armstrong has said students could be suspended or expelled for not following the ritualistic rules with which they’re being forced to comply. This includes having to produce a negative test result for Covid-19 within 72 hours of arriving on campus. Armstrong is quoted as saying, “Cal Poly is working diligently to plan for a Fall 2020 quarter that offers the best possible Learn by Doing experience for our students while mitigating public health risks and helping to ensure the safety of all members of both our campus and the surrounding San Luis Obispo communities.” I have to wonder what exactly is leading President Armstrong and everyone else to think there’s rational cause for concern here. How many of the students who contract Covid-19 will actually be ill? How many will require hospitalization? Will any of them die? I doubt it.
The reality is that, as the CDC’s own statistics show, anybody under the age of 40 has a better chance of dying from a bee sting than from Covid-19. Frankly, there are countless public health issues of more pressing importance: obesity, alcoholism, and drug addiction, to name a few. It seems to me what we’re really witnessing is a classic case of group psychology. It would be interesting to see somebody analyze the wave of irrational fear overtaking the public through the lens of Le Bon or Freud. The fact that there’s such a heavy component of hypochondria (bizarre compulsive rituals etc.) to it all cannot go unnoticed.
But even setting aside the fact that the sort of superstitious procedures Cal Poly is instituting are wildly disproportionate to the situation, there is the further fact that such irrational overreaction is not harmless. We are all going to be far worse off because of it. Journalists such as Oxford’s Mr. Peter Hitchens have been doing superb work detailing the horrendous consequences these stupid coronavirius polices have already caused and will continue to cause. Let me mention just one. It is self-evident that the human face is essential to healthy interpersonal relations. Now, perhaps I’m simply too much of a Levinasian, but I must say that it seems to me very important not to disfigure our humanity by covering our faces. If you’re interested in considering the philosophical case as to why a world where humans wear masks would destroy our humanity, let me suggest he take a look at the second chapter of my book here, which lays out Emmanuel Levinas’s position:
Very best wishes,
Dr. Steven DeLay
Cal Poly ’10
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