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Mazzy Martinez: 'I get frustrated seeing the parties'

Mazzy MartinezSophomore Mazzy Martinez has not been impressed with the pandemic practices of students and university administration alike. 

As an immunocompromised student fretful of overwhelming medical costs, Martinez opted to take on the fall 2020 semester from home. Prioritizing her health has increased her academic burdens and affected her involvement on campus. 

Martinez has found some solace in quarantine through her deejaying with KJHK; the student radio station has been successful in adapting its DJ staff to a fully remote system.

Martinez has been discontented with the university’s handling of the pandemic, but she has been particularly furious with the actions of her fellow students. Martinez expressed frustration with large off-campus parties taking place in her own neighborhood as the pandemic has dramatically worsened. She attributes the practices of partying college students to their lack of empathy and proximity to those most affected by the virus.

Despite her disappointment, Martinez believes that the trials of the pandemic will make more resilient individuals of the masses, and stronger journalists of her and her peers.

► Listen to the audio version here.

Sam Blaufuss: This is Sam Blaufuss. Today is Nov. 10, 2020. I'm interviewing Mazzy Martinez for the William Allen White School of Journalism pandemic oral history project.

Mazzy Martinez: I'm Mazzy Martinez. I'm a sophomore at KU from Topeka, Kansas. I'm involved in a lot at school. I work with The Agency. I was project manager of the Douglas County Public Health stuff over the summer. I also do KJHK. In fact, I had my set today outside of the J-School. I do stuff with Jayhawker Liberation Front. I am part of Abolition KU and helped write that [KU Public Safety Office abolition] petition. Freshman year I dabbled in KU Young Democrats, but then I kind of went to the more leftist, radical organizations – which is not a diss on KU Young Democrats. I like them. I'm involved in a lot throughout the school and the community in general, so I'm constantly busy, but my focus is definitely on the J-School.

Sam Blaufuss: All right, Mazzy, going back to March, what was your initial reaction when the pandemic hit and where were you when you heard the news that KU was closing?

Mazzy Martinez: My little cousin came to visit me, who is now a freshman at KU. She came to visit me and she stayed at my apartment and over spring break I remember saying, “They're going to close the school any day now.” I remember there was… Spain closes, Italy closes. It felt like that game, Plague [Inc.]. It felt like a joke, these entire countries closing. So we're like, “Okay, well they're definitely going to shut down school.” And then that day I was sitting on my couch talking to her about how I didn't even want to go back after spring break because I knew it had all started ramping up and I was like, “I don't want to go back with these kids that just came from Florida.” I was super relieved.

Sam Blaufuss: Relieved?

Mazzy Martinez: Oh, relieved to not have to go back to in-person. I hated it, but I also didn't want to have to be in close proximity with people that had just partied in Florida, which was already looking to be a breakout site around when KU closed. I was like, “Oh, all these kids went to South Padre and partied for like a week.” And I don't want to… didn't want… I knew that if we all came back, it would be a little bit like how it is now, but like exponentially [worse].

Sam Blaufuss: Pardon my surprise on that.

Mazzy Martinez: …I mean, I was devastated. I was relieved more for health reasons, but I… was very stressed out and very, “Oh, what do we do?”

Sam Blaufuss: How has the semester been different comparing spring semester with the pandemic to fall semester with the pandemic?

Mazzy Martinez: It either got way easier for people, or way harder for people and definitely, in the spring for me… it got way easier. I was sailing through those classes there at the end. I had gotten super burned out second semester and I struggled to keep everything in place like I do now, but it didn't hurt as much. Now in the fall I'm still operating under that same kind of, “stay inside…” but I still have that, “Oh, I don't know what to do.” And I'm constantly scrambling. I feel like I can't keep all my work together and now since it's been the entire semester, that's just how all my classes are all the time. And it's very stressful. I'll say this semester is more stressful than last semester.

Sam Blaufuss: What has been the biggest challenge of adapting to the changes on campus?

Mazzy Martinez: The biggest challenge is motivation for sure. I don't go to campus, and going to campus is a big part of getting into that school mindset. In the spring, I had been on campus for a couple of months… well, I've been on campus for the whole time. Then in the spring, I had been there, but now since I've not been there at all, it feels like an infinite weekend, except I have a bunch of stuff due. I'm just kind of like, “Man, I don't want to do it because I can just do it tomorrow.” The hardest thing for me has been motivation to do things and keep track of everything.

Sam Blaufuss: I agree with you on a lot of this. How has your workload changed as a result of the pandemic?

Mazzy Martinez: It has not, it's gotten bigger. Professors are being very funny and they're like, “We're here for you.” You know, they're being very chill, but then it feels like they're making up for the “not in-person” with more work than would ever come up if you had in-person classes. And it's all due at stupid times throughout different days. I have a class where things are due at Wednesdays at 8, which I'm like, “This is ridiculous.” I've seen it before, but that's how all my classes are now. It’s definitely been a way larger workload.

Sam Blaufuss: Over the course of the entire pandemic so far, how has your perception changed? How have you emotionally coped with it?

Mazzy Martinez: As with most of the tragedies that have kind of been wrecking the world lately, it only took me about three months to become stone faced about it. It's devastating. And I get frustrated seeing the parties on my block. I live on 10th and Kentucky, so I have the “eagle eye” on everyone in the hood. That's scary… leaves me frustrated. But for the most part, I feel like I'm desensitized. For four whole days – or however long the election was – I forgot about the pandemic, which is crazy. It was like I spent a good 48 hours where I just completely forgot that we were in a horrible pandemic. The fact that it's gotten to that point is probably very bad, but that's where my head is at now.

Sam Blaufuss: How has your involvement in J-School organizations and other student organizations like Greek life, for example, been affected?

Mazzy Martinez: I'm definitely not in Greek life. I publicly beef with all of them. The Agency is one that has definitely changed. I find that I can't make myself go to meetings that are inside with a bunch of people. I can't do it. I'm so immunocompromised, and I don't have health insurance. I'm not going to be in a room that might not fit everyone 6 feet apart, and unfortunately Dr. Rose has been doing that and now it's getting too cold. I was actually going to suggest to her that we moved back to Zoom. So that's kind of affected it [my involvement] because I didn't go to the most recent meeting and KJHK, we do all of our deejaying from home now. It's all on my laptop, and I've actually been pretty good about that.

I have been missing meetings because again, my workload is insane this semester, so I haven't been nearly as involved with that as much with the -- all the organizational stuff. I have been doing that throughout the pandemic, like with Abolition KU. And we always met through Zoom. We always did our stuff remotely. So that actually hasn't changed a lot, thank God, and we continue to move smoothly.

Sam Blaufuss: How does the deejaying from home work?

Mazzy Martinez: We used to use a program called WideOrbit that we could only use from the studio. I think there was a way to do it remotely, but we never did it. We switched to Zetta, which is a program that we had to download a bunch of stuff onto our computers [for], and we use KU Anywhere to connect to the Union’s VPN so we can make it look like we're at the Union and DJ from anywhere. It's super amazing. I like it a lot. I mean, going into the studio definitely contributed to my main character complex. Because you got to go be a radio DJ, but I do admit I like doing it from laying down in my bed.

Sam Blaufuss: How do you feel about your fellow students’ response to the pandemic?

Mazzy Martinez: Horribly. My peers are so embarrassing right now. The college students of this town are laughingstocks, no regard for COVID safety. Halloween was, “Hallo-weekend…” of course I'm a hypocrite because I have a pod of three friends that I hang out with – and we only hang out with each other. I was walking back from a friend's house on Halloween, just straight down Kentucky, and a party with at least a 100 people was going on a block from the bars, and the bars were open, and everyone's in line and it's like they forgot that something serious is happening, and if they do [remember], they just don't care it seems. From my point of view, disregarding COVID safety and just continuing that is a problem for all facets of life. It's very classist. I think that that whole thing is fundamentally anti-Black, to just disregard something that disproportionately affects the communities that aren't the people that are partying, because it's these Greek Life and… you know. All the undergrad college students just keep on keeping on because it's not affecting them.

Sam Blaufuss: I know you mentioned that your time on campus is limited this semester, but do you know anything about the student response on campus as opposed to off [campus]?

Mazzy Martinez: I work at Watson and I technically have an in-person [class] with Kerry Benson. I'm sure she would like it if I came more often, but I don't… but people are really good about wearing their masks on campus outside as well. I honestly don't feel too bad when I'm on the actual campus. Except for when it's things like meetings and… I have seen like a classroom that was a little too cramped for my liking. It wasn't my class, but I visibly cringed.

Sam Blaufuss: Do you have plans to adapt your education or career to the current situation?

Mazzy Martinez: I honestly am able to continue these things… the library stays open. I'm most likely going to be able to continue to work there and just push on through school. I don't think this isn't going to be over anytime soon, but for me… I'm just going to start working on how to be more productive from this setting.

Sam Blaufuss: How do you feel about the School of journalism's response to the pandemic?

Mazzy Martinez: The School of Journalism has done a poor job of accommodating remote learning. To me, every time I look at the class, it's like most courses don't have online options at all… a startling amount of them. And there are other whole schools that have like way more. I just feel like the J-School could have done a little better to take care of the students, but we're all just like journalism idiots, so we're just like, “Yup… got to keep riding, got to keep doing it.” – Which you definitely know. I wish that the J-School was slightly more accommodating to the pandemic because it definitely seems like most of the professors – save for like sweethearts like Eric Thomas – have kind of blown past the fact that there's a pandemic going on.

Sam Blaufuss: How has the pandemic changed the William Allen White School of Journalism and KU?

Mazzy Martinez: We will never… things will never be the same after this, that's for sure. I think since the J-School seems to not change, I feel like the only thing that’ll change is access to campus resources, which are off. I think that that will be a big problem. And that has been a big problem for people doing their work effectively, not being able to access campus resources as easily as they could before. I have even stumbled across that I've needed to use the writing center, and it's kind of a hassle. So I'm just kind of like, “Well, I don't want to go to campus… I don't want to do any of this.” So I, so I haven't been using campus resources as much. Tuition is something I've been thinking about this year. They pointedly didn't raise the tuition like they usually do. I'm wondering if we will continue like this and they will continue on like before… except we're still affected.

Sam Blaufuss: How do you think KU will grow to be better from everything that's happened?

Mazzy Martinez: I think the KU community – I wouldn't say the KU institutions, because I think that they've proven themselves to be just that, an institution. I don't think that it's going to do much better in terms of how it serves its community, but I think the KU community, the students, and our professors have definitely gained some humanity from all of this recognition… even though before I was talking about how like my peers, but… they're seeing this event and I'm seeing it, and so are the professors, and we all talk about it. I think it is definitely in people's minds and it makes them slightly more aware of the goings on outside of their lives.

Sam Blaufuss: What advice would you give someone 100 years from now if there is another pandemic?

Mazzy Martinez: At the beginning of this pandemic, we were hesitant to wear masks, but then when we all started doing it, and it made things a little bit better. I feel like we should just do it from the get-go. Also… it's going to end at some point, and you just have to wait it out... waiting out could be years, but… I love waiting it out. I love the “keep on keeping on.”

Sam Blaufuss: Is there anything else you'd like to add? We're finishing a little bit early, so if you have some closing remarks you’ve definitely got the time.

Mazzy Martinez: I think that the pandemic is making us better journalists. I think we've all had to interview or interview someone… we've talked extensively about COVID, it's forcing us to really pay attention to news and how people interact. I think how we've been observing media through the past few months alone has educated all of us on how to be better journalists.

Sam Blaufuss: This is the conclusion of this oral history.

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