The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


OPINION: Open Letter to SMU From a Student with an Autoimmune Disease

Photo credit: Asher Thye

By: Helena Burns

Dear SMU,

I’m a senior student with an autoimmune disease, which puts me in the high-risk group for suffering serious complications from the coronavirus. For me, it’s normal to feel sick almost every day and to inject myself with a biologic (an immunosuppressant) every other week. I’ve become used to managing my condition while going to class. But this situation is different.

My risk of serious complications and/or death is four to five times more likely than my “normal” peers. Many students feel confident in their ability to fight off the coronavirus because the only people who die from it are old or have other health issues (people like me). However, even those who don’t have a severe case can have a difficult recovery.

When Texas reported its first case of the coronavirus, SMU did nothing. That made sense; it wasn’t close. SMU still did nothing when Collin County reported a case of the coronavirus, but it wasn’t here yet so that was OK.

When Dallas County reports its first case, SMU does nothing. It’s just one case and they’ll clean more. Then Dallas County reports its second case. A third. SMU does nothing. TCU, Baylor, a Dallas high school cancel in-person classes. I’m nervous. They canceled for a reason. SMU will cancel too, right? At the very least, SMU wants to preserve its reputation, right?

I’m anxious to go to class tomorrow, and not because I have a quiz. I have to go because there aren’t any online options yet. SMU would probably say I can stay home since I have health concerns, but everyone else will be in class. I’ll miss important information. My grade might suffer. My professor might think I’m just trying to get out of class. I need to go.

Here I am in class writing this letter. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about: Who sat at this desk before me? Are they healthy? Don’t touch your face.

Who has touched the door handle? I’m running low on hand sanitizer. I need to save it since stores are sold out. I’ll trust whoever touched this before me. I’ll trust SMU’s promise to clean well. Don’t touch your face.

I was going to use the bathroom in Umph, but the soap dispenser hasn’t worked for a month. Should I use my hand sanitizer? Don’t touch your face.

Am I overreacting? Am I being dramatic? There’s so little information about this out there and my doctors have told me to be extremely cautious. Better to be safe than sorry when the stakes are this high.

I should’ve gone to a different school.

SMU, there are alternatives. You can still fulfill your mission to educate us without putting students, teachers and staff at risk. I’m begging you, at the very least please implement online classes for high-risk groups.

I’d be happy to discuss any concerns if you’d like to hear more or if you’d like to share anything with me.

Stay healthy,

Helena Burns

Helena Burns is a senior double majoring in Political Science and Public Relations and Strategic Communication. Following graduation, Helena will move to Washington, D.C., to work in journalism.

The Daily Campus welcomes opinion contributions from students, faculty, and community members. Submissions should be no more than 1000 words and are subject to copy editing. Please email submissions to [email protected], and include a cell phone number and a short biography.

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