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Perspective: When closing a door is more than closing a door


Since that day in February 2008, I have always closed my door at the beginning of class. This precaution would give my students some level of protection if an active shooter came to our hallway. With the door shut and locked, we could throw ourselves on the floor, call campus police, and hope for the best.

As the years passed, I noticed that fewer classroom doors were closed in DuSable Hall where I teach. Eventually, I became the outlier who still closed the door.

The pandemic has complicated this safety measure. DuSable Hall classrooms have no windows, so air circulation is an issue, and the air machines are too noisy to keep on during class. I question whether closing the classroom door is still safe: Do I continue to close the door, protecting my students from a repeat of the events of February 2008, or do I leave the doors open to allow some level of airflow to protect them from a potentially fatal disease? The specter of death hovers over each choice, and there is no right or wrong one because circumstances beyond my control will determine whether it is better to close the door or not.

So, I wonder, how being an educator has come to this: I hesitate in front of a door, wondering each day if I have made the right decision and kept my students safe.

I'm Frances Jaeger and this is my Perspective.

Frances Jaeger is an associate professor of Spanish at Northern Illinois University. Her research interests include Latin American contemporary poetry as well as Caribbean and Central American literature.