Just How Badly Are College Reopenings Going? Ask TikTok
A cell phone camera pans over an empty desk, focusing on an odd (and, frankly, confusing) meal consisting of an unripe orange, a sealed bread roll, single Rice Krispie treat, and a prepackaged chicken, watermelon, and cucumber salad. It’s not hospital fare. It’s what NYU is feeding their quarantined students. Welcome to the college Hunger Games, courtesy of the Coronavirus.
With outbreaks already forcing students back home from campuses that have attempted in-person sessions, most colleges and universities are resigning themselves to another semester of virtual—or partly virtual—instruction. Some schools have allowed students to move back on campus, but with only a few classes fully in person, and even those requiring smaller class sizes, masks, and mandatory two-week quarantines for dorm students.
According to a statement from NYU, over 2,600 students started their dorm quarantine in the second week of August. But less than 3 days into their stay, they began flooding TikTok with videos of NYU’s less than adequate meal service.
idk if they can top watermelon chicken but i hope they don’t let us down #nyufood♬ Sweatshirt - Jacob Sartorius
The videos broke out of the NYU bubble to fill TikTok’s For You pages with viral videos of watery bowls of watermelon chicken and bags filled with lemons and chips. NYU has since apologized.
The viral videos are not limited to New York or bagged meals. The University of North Carolina made it onto For You pages with out-of-control foam parties that sent the school’s COVID-19 infection rate skyhigh (the administration subsequently cancelled in-person classes). University of Alabama’s in-person fraternity and sorority bid days got roasted on the app, and now the campus has over 500 reported cases of COVID-19. A video of a UConn frat party led to a similar viral takedown.
Meanwhile, the disappointed TikToks keep coming. Some returning NYU students, forgotten in the flurry of food TikToks, are still receiving broken and crushed packages from the hastily packed up dorm rooms they left in March. Even the normally fun dorm makeover videos are awkward now, with students turning doubles into single-occupant paradises, commenting about “doing all that work just to leave in 3 weeks,” and inevitably posting move-out updates as their colleges end in-person classes.
While these rapidly changing circumstances make for entertaining TikToks, they are obviously symptoms of a larger problem. Colleges and universities rushing to start in-person classes and fill dorm spaces aren’t doing it for the students. They’re doing it to stay afloat. And without a strict plan in place to prevent infections, the next bid day, or frat party, or dorm slip-n-slide, or a student cabinet meeting, is going to have terrible consequences for all involved. And we’ll see it all on TikTok.