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People across the country were outraged by images of Spring Breakers partying on Florida beaches amid growing concern over the coronavirus pandemic. University of Missouri professor Carolyn Orbann said there might be more to the college students’ actions than being purely inconsiderate and explained their actions in the context of cultural behaviors and history.
According to Orbann, cultural behaviors include any behavior influenced by somebody’s “belief systems, religious systems, really the way they make meaning as a group.”
Orbann told Fox News that college students realized that the coronavirus pandemic was going to impact the remainder of their semester, which meant their shared experiences that gave meaning in their college life were at stake.
“Seeing experiences like graduation potentially go away, meant that they were motivated to continue doing the other parts of what they saw as significant to their college experience,” said Orbann. “So spring break was one of the last things that they had left, that last get-together with their friends.”
Orbann also pointed to cultural behaviors that impacted the 1918 influenza pandemic and fostered the spread of the virus, impacted by the tumultuous events of World War I.
“The major peak of deaths happened [during the influenza] right as the Armistice was happening, and so you had major troop movements around the world,” said Orbann. “In addition, the troops were returning home or visiting each other when they had some R&R time, so all of that basically served to spread the disease a little bit further perhaps, than it would have gone otherwise, or at least more quickly.”
With that understanding, Orbann explained that encouraging social responsibility and seeing follow-through comes down to messaging and understanding how to reach different groups of people. Communication means utilizing relevant channels, for example, social media vs.person-to-person communication.
“So thinking about the way that we can communicate meaningfully with each other authentically is really important, especially young people who react really strongly to authenticity and the lack of authenticity,” said Orbann. “So if they perceive something as not being authentic, they’re not likely to internalize that message very well.”
Orbann is empathetic of her students’ situation of missing consequential activities amid social distancing. Now, she wants to find meaningful new activities that can build their peer identity so they don’t feel like they’re missing out.
“What can we do to continue offering activities the students can do to build their peer identity, to build their subculture identity as Mizzou alumni?” asked Orbann. “We don’t want their last experience to be moving out of their dorms or their apartments in the middle of March and just never coming back. So meaningful alternatives are really important.”
To hear more from Carolyn Orbann, an associate teaching professor of health science in the School of Health Professions at the University of Missouri, watch the full interview above.
Emily DeCiccio is a reporter and video producer for Fox News Digital Originals. Tweet her @EmilyDeCiccio.