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Seriously: Illnesses tie us together

Collegian | Madelyn Hendricks

Editor’s Note: This is a satire piece from The Collegian’s opinion section. Real names and the events surrounding them may be used in fictitious/semi-fictitious ways. Those who do not read the editor’s notes are subject to being offended.

As Rams, our friendship is evergreen. The ties that bind us together are more precious than gold. Our voices are as bright and bold as the “A” on a mountainside directing traffic in the sky. Side by side, we acquire knowledge, expertise and memories for a lifetime. But there is one thing we share freely among ourselves that none — not even the full strength of our administration, government nor our most modern science — can take from us: disease.


Each year, we fill these halls of education with our lively presence and our air-transmissible diseases. The air we share delivers the crucial particles, bacterial or viral, of indestructible diseases to our lungs so that we all may partake. The secret is as simple as community. Merely sharing space is all it takes to enter our colony of curated disease.

We give nothing more freely than our uniquely bred plagues so that any who cross our path are adorned with gifts of communal particles. Think of the lineage and direct ancestry that our illnesses derive from — each generation of the Ram family leaving their mark as a mutation of the disease they survived. We carry on a historic tradition with the very air we breathe as our DNA houses the signature of every infection that passes through our lungs like a microbial yearbook.

This is the legacy that truly impacts the lives of students and staff, not murals, time capsules or buildings. A photo in a glass case cannot persist interactively with students, it cannot impact the trajectory of an entire school and it can never be as invincible or as powerful as a germ.

While some Rams revel in sports, impose traditions or acquire diplomas, I believe the work that matters most takes place in dormitories and mandatory lecture halls. All it takes is a single carrier of allergies to pass along the pure spirit of Ram culture.

The girl who sneezes over her shoulder baptizing all those behind her in viral mists, the boy using shared equipment while eating a bag of chips — are they even aware of the great inheritance they bear?

As I walk down the stairs of the Andrew G. Clark Building, colliding with passersby funneling through the doorways, I like to pause and breathe in the consecrated air deeply. A mere dry cough or two can mark the difference between business as usual and a rescheduled exam.

A well-timed shout can thicken the cloud of particles filtered by our overworked and oxygen-deprived lungs. In the stairwell, wheezes echo, and I’m reminded of our collective mandate to continue the evolution of illness in the name of Colorado State University.

Participants of our great university petri dish ought to understand the honor and appreciate the pride we take in our infections. We do not hide our diseases under a bushel to inevitably die in shame. No! We cough into our hands and bless each door handle, each desk, each personal electronic device with the infectious symbols of Rams gone before us.

We remember previous generations of students by distributing their pathogenic seed to travel among us and mutate, providing those pathogens to the future Rams who will continue to carry our legacy onward through history.


Reach Jenn Dawson at or on Twitter @JennFriend_y.

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About the Contributor
Jenn Dawson
Jenn Dawson, Science Editor

Jenn Dawson's audacious plan to change the world involves brain sciences, data and science communication, investigative journalism and community education alongside strong notes of ethics, justice, persistence and inclusion — with subtle hints of comedy, music and family.

With the help of her nontraditional journey through education, Dawson aims to use her future degrees in psychology and journalism to seek the truth and share what she learns. There's no better way to get started doing just that than taking on the privilege of starting up The Collegian's first science desk. On the rare occasions that project and assignment due dates are not imminent, Dawson plays Dungeons & Dragons and video games, forages and takes photos in the mountains, enjoys Fort Collins and plays music.  Dawson's other focuses are advocacy-oriented, and she's always on the lookout for the most effective ways to support the causes she cares for the most. She loves participating in local organizations and community projects. Notably, Dawson is excited to work with the Northern Colorado Deliberative Journalism Project, a local media collaboration project with a goal to reconsider the nature of journalism. Thank you for supporting students, local news and The Collegian!

Comments (2)

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  • S

    Samuel SimteSep 24, 2023 at 5:38 am

    Well saying. Illnesses really brought us together.

  • C

    ChesterSep 18, 2023 at 8:49 am

    Interesting essay on the sharing of various aerosol borne viral and bacterial pathogens. Might we also include the various pathogens shared in more up close and personal student interactions, namely the STDs shared in singular or more extended sexual events and their passage and travels. CSU Health Services likely has some data on their incidence, but not likely to be made pubicly, whoops, publicly available.