The severity of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is something that no college, including Saint Joseph’s University, could have anticipated. COVID-19, as pandemics do, struck the United States when we were least expecting it. As this dangerous virus spread across the country and more and more large gatherings were cancelled, universities were faced with a challenge of their own—how do we still operate despite these terrible circumstances? At first many universities extended their spring break holiday, to presumably make some sense of the situation. But as the extension drew near and the virus continued to spread, a decision was made to by a majority of universities to move classes online and recommend students go home—for the rest of the semester. Saint Joseph’s University was one of those universities who decided to go this route. Below is what the students thought of the situation and how it impacted them:
To some, this was a welcomed change. Students were able to relax at home, spend time with their families, and maybe even watch class from the comfort of their own bed. However, to others this was a frustrating experience. Many students rely on campus housing and dining options as they lack the resources at home, if there even is home at all. While others lack a stable Wi-Fi connection, have added responsibilities, or quite frankly, just don’t feel comfortable at home. However, SJU was one of the last colleges in the majority group to move to online classes for the remainder of the semester and ask that students leave campus. In doing so, SJU was able to learn about some of the mistake’s universities made when moving to online classes and closing the residence halls. Harvard University, for example, was one of the first colleges to move to online format and close the residence halls and overlooked those students that relied on the university for basic living needs. This caused an uproar on Twitter which caused Harvard to release a statement addressing the issues and providing reasonable accommodations for the students. Saint Joseph’s University learned from universities like Harvard and made sure to provide reasonable accommodations for students as soon as changes were made to university operations. I am grateful to Saint Joe’s for evaluating the situation and all possible alternatives before making these decisions, rather than acting on impulse.
While the accommodations are reasonable, COVID-19 has not made it easy for students to get the most out of their costly educations. Some courses, like chemistry labs, simply do not translate to online formats. This created a lot of panic, particularly with the senior class, speculating if they will be able to complete the particular class to graduate. Now, while Saint Joe’s probably wouldn’t allow this to happen, in an unprecedented event and the uncertainty of the circumstances ahead, the students rightfully were panicking.
The last thing I have noticed and have been very upset to read pretty often on social media is seeing colleges beginning to cancel their graduations. I could only imagine working so hard for 4 long and stressful years (and more, if we include their entire academic career) just to not be able to walk on that extraordinary day. My heart goes out to those seniors across the country, and it’s important to note that these cancellations do not diminish their success, and the pride that so many people have for them.
I recognize that these problems are just one of many the world is faced with during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hopefully we will all be back in the classroom and out in the world again soon, but for now, let’s continue to practice social distancing and doing everything we can to flatten the curve. My heart also goes out to every person who has been impacted by the virus, and I hope that the efforts taken by Saint Joseph’s University, and all universities nationwide, have helped deter the spread of the virus from affecting to those who are most vulnerable.