NC State athletics are back in full swing, and with games, comes celebrations of them. However, tailgating, a primary way for students to gather and have fun together during sporting events, has changed quite a bit in the past few months.
Tailgating is traditionally an outdoor activity where students enjoy grilling, cornhole and, often, alcohol. Outdoor parties are relatively safer than indoor ones, but there can still be a high risk of the virus spread depending on how you choose to party. So how are students tailgating in the pandemic? There’s a broad range of answers, some safe, and some significantly less so.
Mairead Maley, a third-year studying architecture, works at the student apartment complex Valentine Commons. The day of NC State’s first football game of the season against Wake Forest, Maley witnessed a large tailgate in the apartment complex’s courtyard. Sympathetic to the fact that the lack of social gatherings has been difficult for students, there would have been no issue had safety guidelines been followed.
“They weren’t wearing masks,” Maley said. “I asked them if they could all wear masks, and I told them it’s company policy, [but] they chose not to.”
The safety of outdoor tailgating can vary. According to Julie Casani, NC State’s medical director and the director of Student Health Services, masks and distancing are still vital in outside gatherings.
“Risk is mitigated by being outdoors, and it is a bit easier to stay further apart,” Casani said. “Risk is increased with eating [because] face coverings are off, alcohol [causing] more risky behavior and overall gatherings of groups.”
According to Maley, the tailgate outside Valentine Commons did not act according to these guidelines. Students became belligerent, yelled at residents and urinated on the building.
“In the end, somebody ended up just calling in a noise complaint, and they were eventually told to get out of the courtyard,” Maley said.
Gatherings like the one that took place at Valentine Commons may be an example of what not to do, but there are still ways to celebrate while respecting one another’s safety and comfort.
“One of my friends went to a tailgate in a friend’s backyard, and they set a projector outside and respected each other’s social distance, but they also enjoyed each other’s company at the same time,” Maley said. “I feel like that’s a better way to go about doing it — maintaining the social distance but, you know, it’s such nice weather outside, why not go outside?”
Casani echoed this sentiment about self-awareness and respecting your peers.
“[It’s the] same advice as always: Wear face coverings, keep your distance and limit the time you are close,” Casani said. “Also, stay home if you are sick.”
It is wrong to assume that students participating in riskier tailgates have bad intentions. It is easy to believe one will be safe and cite that belief when justifying spending time with friends in the same way one used to. However, we do not live in the same world that we used to, and it is crucial to consider the world outside of oneself and the impact of one’s actions.
“It’s important to just respect other people’s wishes when it comes to respecting distance and maintaining sanitation,” Maley said. “I think it’s important that we take everybody’s opinion into account.”
When taking everybody’s opinion into account, it is likely that students have different views of the values and risks associated with tailgating during a pandemic. However students may choose to gather and celebrate NC State’s wins and losses this semester is up to them, but for the health of the student body, it is important to remember that the pandemic rages on whether we acknowledge it or not.
For more information about NC State’s community standards regarding COVID-19, visit the Protect the Pack website.