When the University of Iowa announced that it would be resuming classes as planned this year, I honestly was not too concerned. I had no doubts in my mind that we had the tools and motivation to make this school year as normal as possible.
I put too much faith in my school and my 23,000 classmates.
Upon returning to campus my biggest fear was not in-person classes or shopping at a freshman-filled target, I was most concerned with my apartment building. For the past two years I have lived in a medium-sized building that is overrun by fraternity boys and sorority girls.
For the past two weeks, Iowa City has forgotten that there is a pandemic. My roommates and I have watched as herds of people have taken to the bars and flooded our hallways as if nothing has changed.
After two weeks of realizing that the majority of other tenants who live in our building were not going to follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, my roommates and I started to get frustrated.
Last week one of my roommates got in the elevator and an acquaintance told her that half of our floor had tested positive for COVID-19. When we learned, we immediately called our apartment building’s management office. I left a message explaining how unsafe the building felt. That our courtyard is used for day-time parties that exceed 10 people and how we feel that our safety is not a concern for them.
Twenty-four hours after my first phone call I got an email thanking me for bringing the information to the building staff’s attention. I was assured that an email would be sent out reminding everyone to wear masks and respect CDC guidelines.
Of course, nothing changed.
This past weekend a large group decided to turn our public courtyard into a mock wedding, embellished with mask-free partying.
On Saturday night my roommates and I were drinking wine on our couch watching a movie when a group of three drunk friends walked into our apartment. They did not knock or ask if they could come in. None of them had masks on. We were uncomfortable and angry that strangers were roaming our building doing as they pleased and possibly exposing us to COVID-19.
So, I emailed management, explaining that there have been large parties all week.
All we want is the enforcement of masks and limit of 10 people gatherings.
Two days later, I got my response.
Staff puts out one bottle of hand sanitizer when you walk into the building and a sign of guidelines taped next to the elevator that is ripped down by the end of the weekend.
I was also told that the building gave out masks to all of the tenants, although my friends’ units nor my own have received them.
In response to requesting that on-call staff require people wear masks in public spaces and break up gatherings of more than 10 people I was told that “tenants are all adults and we cannot police them about wearing masks.”
This is where my frustration reached a boiling point. If tenants are all adults, then they would not need the constant reminders to stop vandalizing the building or weekly police citations for excessive noise.
There is a direct rule in the tenant contract that states management can indeed police everyone to wear masks in public spaces since it is a reasonable rule.
Last night my roommates and I called the Iowa City police for the third time since we have been back at school to make a noise complaint.
I am not writing this to shame others for how they live their lives. I am writing it to beg landlords of apartment buildings across the country to do better.
Do not adopt the mindset that we are all adults and can make decisions for ourselves, because sometimes adults do not make good decisions. And to the students who might read this and identify with the ones not wearing masks, I challenge you to try harder to do better.
We all want to have fun and get back to $1 drinks at Brothers on Thursdays, so let’s do this together.
—Bari Bloom, University of Iowa senior