COVID Editorial: Please Don’t Make Me Write Your Obituary

Ren Gennerman, Features Editor

Dear Winona State University students and faculty,


Please don’t make me write your obituary.

When I received news that I was becoming the Features Editor for the Winonan, I was thrilled. As an editor, I could better share my love and passion for investigative journalism with others. I pictured this semester diving into issues like police relations with our community, the inaccessibility of our campus and how the Harvard admission scandal affected Winona State. But, like most plans for 2020, mine went askew when the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States.

Before we knew it, we were sent home and directed to learn via Zoom and D2L. The news kept reporting an unimaginable death rate in Italy and New York, as the rest of us anticipated the worst coming here. We were stuck in our houses as toilet paper disappeared from supermarket shelves.

We were told we were in this together.

As I saw communities on the news combine efforts to feed the hungry and finance the poor, my faith in people grew. Yes, there was a pandemic. But the sheer goodness of humanity can be shown during the worst of times. We can band together to help those in need.

However, as unemployment skyrocketed, tenants were evicted, people of color were infected at higher rates, and mask orders ensued, I saw a disturbing trend: the utter lack of compassion for others. There was an ever-present idea that if you were young and had no preexisting conditions, these rules and guidelines no longer applied to you. And then, we came back to our college campuses for the start of a new school year.

When I look at the freshmen this year, I feel terrible for them. Here they are, in a new place, all alone in a dorm room attending classes that are mostly online. I feel for you. I cannot understand what it is like, but I imagine your experience is lonely.

If you’re not a freshman, I still understand a lot of your frustration. Wearing a mask is hot and uncomfortable. Not being able to hug my friends also hurts my mental health. However, I beg you to consider my perspective.

Please don’t make me write your obituary.

Yes, parties and darties (day parties) are fun. Yes, you are missing out on experiences like Welcome Week and Rush Week. Yes, things like masks and social distancing may make it more difficult to initially make friends.

But please, please don’t make me write your obituary.

I am not prepared to have to attend your funeral instead of attending my Zoom class. I am not prepared to have to talk to your friends on campus and ask them about how, in your 20 short years of life, you made an impact on them. I am not prepared to call your mother and ask her what your goals were, what she loved most about you, and what your absence will mean in the years to come.

I understand many of us, including myself, are essential workers. Many of us cannot stay home from our jobs or avoid infectious areas. Many of you reading may also be people of color, whose communities are disproportionally affected by this pandemic. While there need to be significant changes to help protect you and your communities, I am not writing this letter to you.

I am writing to anyone on my Snapchat stories going to the beach shoulder-to-shoulder with 50 other people. I am writing to the people at the bars, drinking and singing karaoke with their friends. I am pleading with those who walk through stores without masks, claiming they do nothing and it’s not even worth the effort.

It might not happen to you. Even if you get COVID, you will likely be asymptomatic, or you may have a mild case. For your sake, I hope that’s the case.

But consider your professors, classmates, siblings, parents, grandparents and friends. They may have diabetes, asthma, cancer or are otherwise immunocompromised. They may be pregnant, a smoker or have some underlying condition neither of you know about that puts them at higher risk. Or, they may be one of the unlucky few who get put on a ventilator and die just because that’s how the cards were drawn.

Please don’t make me write their obituaries.

Wear a mask. Stay at least six feet away from other people. Clean your space regularly. Wash your hands and don’t touch your face. Stay home if you are sick. Get tested if you encounter a COVID-positive person or experience symptoms.

I became an editor to share my love of writing and journalism. I set out on this journey to teach and lead others to become the best reporters they could be. Instead, I am forced to share Wikilinks on how to write an obituary and warn them that, while this is a highly emotional experience, it is our responsibility to cover the deaths in the Winona State community. We may share in your loss as a community, but my writers will have to write and publish your lasting memory at Winona State.

Please don’t make us write your obituary.



*Inspired by an editorial published by the Observer from University of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s College and Holy Cross College in Indiana, entitled, “Observer Editorial: Don’t make us write obituaries”.*