Editorial: COVID-19 Creates Unprecedented Obstacles but Profs are Stronger

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The year 2020 has already gone down in history as one to remember. Between Australia being swallowed by flames, huge pushes for racial justice and dozens of protests against police brutality across the country — not to mention the ever-looming COVID-19 pandemic — 2020 has seen it all. And we haven’t even reached Election Day yet, which has the potential to be just as monumental as the rest of the year has been.

With all of the things that have happened this year, changes are sure to ensue. For college students, who are already in a transition point of their lives, much change has already taken place.

In the spring semester, many students were forced from campus housing to their permanent residences, completing the rest of their courses online. Many schools delayed or even canceled their graduation ceremonies — luckily for Rowan grads, commencement ceremonies were held in late summer on the Glassboro campus.

Moving into the fall semester, many classes are still being offered online, though some are required to be held in-person or will give the option to attend in-person or online. Because of the primarily online format, some students have opted to stay home — for health, financial or other reasons — while many have started to fill campus housing over the last couple weeks of August.

No matter what way you spin it, the traditional — and perhaps even coveted — college experience has been fundamentally changed for the present moment. In Holly Pointe, many of the normally double-occupancy dorm rooms only have one person living in them. For the freshmen living in these situations, it robs them of the opportunity of learning to live with a stranger and potentially creating a friendship with a roommate — a first friend on campus.

For students going into their senior year, this is not what they had imagined their final year feeling like. With online classes, the chance to catch up with old classmates you only see in your major’s courses is slim, and a majority of class and homework time will be spent staring at a screen in your room rather than engaging with professors and other students in a traditional classroom.

Questions abound about how this year will play out. Will the seniors’ final Hollybash be the one that got rained out and was relocated last minute to the Student Center? Will freshmen still have the opportunity to make the friends and memories like the rest of us did our first year? Will the spring semester look the same as this one, or will it look more like what we’re used to? Will we succeed academically as well this semester as we have in the past?

Some of these things are out of our control as students, like the occurrences of special events and how Rowan handles having in-person or fully remote classes, or something in between. Though we may worry about these and other similar issues, the best thing in this mentally taxing time is to let those things be decided by those who are in control of them. To be clear, a sophomore engineering student shouldn’t devote all their time and energy to worrying about whether they will experience Hollybash this year. Leave that to those who hold the power in the decision-making process.

Nonetheless, there are things we can control in our semester. Our academic success and our social lives depend on our decisions as individuals. This isn’t a change from the norm entirely; we must always hold ourselves accountable for succeeding in classes and creating social bonds with the people around us.

This semester, however, has that added layer of difficulty. Some people are worried they won’t get as much out of their online classes as they would in a physical classroom. Others struggle to spend time with friends and new acquaintances in fear of contributing to the spread of COVID-19. We must adapt to our new circumstances as a community and as individuals to make the best experience possible for ourselves. It’ll take determination, but the Rowan community is strong and will find new ways to blossom in this time.

To be sure, we will find out the answers to these concerns and others as time progresses, both on an individual and collective level. There are only two things that are certain about this year: the uncertainty of it all and that we will all have to adjust to a temporary new normal.

For comments/questions about this story, email editor@thewhitonline.com or tweet @TheWhitOnline.

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