The core foundations of a persuasive argument are rooted in ethos, logos and pathos. The writer uses their reputation or the reputation of others in order to make their case. They might include a list of logical arguments, backed up by numbers and data, things that we have been trained to consider impartial and meticulous. Sometimes heart strings are plucked to try to sway an audience. Persuasive essays often use a mix of two or three of these fundamentals in order to make their point. The best writers often account for the needs and biases of their audiences: A Facebook rant might be more heavy-handed on pathos while a dissertation defense will double down on logos and ethos.

This essay, like many persuasive essays before it, will use a mixture of all three in order to defend its argument. However, I wish it didn’t need to make its case in the first place.

I shouldn’t have to remind you that the world is being gripped by a global pandemic. Over 150,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, and the virus is tearing families apart. Nor should I have to mention that the U.S. government offered a one time, paltry means tested $1200 relief payments to Americans, while multinational corporations were spoon-fed taxpayer-funded bailouts that numbered in the hundreds of billions. 

Virginia Tech needs to offer students refunds and expand mental health services and academic support to students. The fact of the matter is not everyone has a safe or quiet learning environment at home, or access to a stable internet connection and personal computer, and the assumption that everyone lives under the conditions is a shallow and privileged analysis. It’s glaringly obvious that Virginia Tech already doesn’t care for students as it is. It has shirked its responsibilities to protect its students while other campuses are putting safety first. Forty million Americans and counting are unemployed, so clearly these are extenuating circumstances that deserve a comprehensive and compassionate response. But we’re not seeing that from the university or from our communities. 

“College housing takes advantage of students, especially the ones when it’s their first time getting an apartment. They have no guidance and are just thrown documents to sign, rushed, and may not understand anything they’ve done,” said Rachel Bailey, a senior majoring in applied economic management, whose rent was affected by this attempted increase. 

I shouldn’t have to remind you that frontline workers face the same kind of financial instability. My own father had to bring his own PPE to work because the USPS is so underfunded that it couldn’t afford to give out gloves, masks or even travel-sized bottles of hand sanitizer to its carriers. My mother was unemployed for two months and didn’t qualify for “normal” unemployment benefits because she’s an independent contractor. She would’ve gone without pay for over six weeks if it wasn’t for the Paycheck Protection Program.

I shouldn’t need to say that I’ve had to file for unemployment and read through every legal document my family has needed to fill out because they don’t understand English well enough to do it themselves. It’s not just me and my family that have to deal with these administrative burdens, either. These same legal documents, that are supposedly meant to help working class and underserved communities, are almost always filled with jargon and convoluted wording. As a native English speaker, even I have a hard time understanding what they’re even talking about.

I shouldn’t have to repeat that not every student is privileged enough to have their own laptops, a safe place to stay or even the mental capacity to deal with the perpetual dumpster fire that is 2020. I shouldn’t have to post charts, graphs and statistics that you won’t read or remember in order for you to care about your fellow Hokies. I shouldn’t have to remind you that our motto is “Ut Prosim” or that you absolutely have something in common with all these nameless faces. I shouldn’t have to write this to ask you to care about people. I shouldn’t have to create hypothetical situations in order for you to emphasize with those who are unlike you.

Why does every call to action need a “sob story” in order for you to care? Why must we remind you of our shared identity, both as people and as Hokies, in order for you to even consider doing “the right thing?” 

Why does someone’s humanity need to be tied to their economic or professional potential in order for them to get help? Why must they be useful first in order to be deserving of aid and welfare? Why am I asking simple questions that no one can seem to answer?

Offer students refunds and put people before profits. It’s not a request. It’s not a demand. It’s the only thing to do.

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