A moment of silence.
Are you surprised Illinois State canceled face-to-face classes for the remainder of spring semester?
For all the graduating friends we don’t get to say goodbye to, and for the months we all thought we still had together. A moment of silence for the relationships built up with professors, for the classes we liked going to, for the classmates who we enjoyed sitting next to but hadn’t gotten around to asking for their numbers yet. For the budding romances now crushed by long distance, and for the found families and communities now miles away from each other.
Following that moment, I’d like to express my rage.
I think the university made a rash decision, and I think they will come to regret it.
I know the threat is serious, and I do encourage social distancing in all forms. PLEASE STAY AWAY FROM EACH OTHER AND PLEASE STAY HOME. I am aware these decisions were made with students’ safety in mind. However, I think the idea to go online for the rest of the semester, extending a decision less than a week after it was initially made, will kill student morale. And I think the university made that decision too quickly.
I suspect grades will drop; I expect mental health will decline. This isn’t unique to ISU; universities across the state have made similar decisions. I think all those universities will feel the same consequences. By confirming the choice that many students fear to continue online courses to the end of the semester, they increase hopelessness and killed their hope.
How are you to tell a graduating student to focus on classes, when they know the commencement they worked so hard for likely won’t happen? How can you tell a student to focus on schoolwork when the university job they relied on for income no long exists, when the friends they relied on for mental support are now miles away?
How can you tell a student to tune into Zoom as they move back in with their abusive or unsupported family?
How can you expect anyone to focus and remain mentally healthy when their whole world has fallen apart?
I, for instance, need a form of order in my life. These sudden changes have taken a serious toll on me mentally. I know that won’t improve when I head back to an empty apartment, and once I am told not to leave it. It takes an insane amount of discipline to focus on online classes, especially when you’re in the midst of a pandemic.
I know I’m not the first to express these concerns. I know ISU is working on ways to fix these concerns, but they have screwed themselves by calling it so soon. Now they have less than a week before online classes begin and students have less than a week to get their lives in order.
To students, know that we are all in the same boat. And, frankly, take a moment to grieve. It is grieving, and it’s okay. This is strange, and this is awful. Then, call your friends, text them, send them your love because they likely feel as terrible as you do.