College Interrupted: COVID-19 Takes Students from Campus to Computer, By: Kayla Howard, Spelman College

If you keep up with current events, you have been aware of the impact the coronavirus on the lives of citizens in many foreign nations for a few months now, including China. Entire countries have gone on national lockdowns and placed all of their resources into controlling the spread of this dangerous virus. However, the American government has just recently acknowledged the severity of the situation and acted accordingly. Over the past two weeks, many of our lives have been flipped upside down in ways that none of us have seen in our lifetime.

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We have been instructed to “social distance” ourselves, which includes avoiding public places (unless absolutely necessary) and not organizing in groups any larger than ten people. Because our class and dorm populations exceed far beyond this limit, most higher institutions (including the schools in the AUC) have resorted to mandated remote learning and required that all students vacate their on-campus housing. Though I do understand the importance of doing our part in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, it is important to acknowledge the ways in which certain precautions that are meant to protect students have, in turn, introduced additional hardships to our lives.

The news broke on March 12, that the in-person semester would be ending early, which also happened to be during AUC spring break. Abruptly transitioning classes online and forcing students to leave campus posed a huge problem for many students. It essentially stated that our spring break would be extended by one additional week and students would be required to pick up their belongings by March 21, just 9 days later. The typical move-out process can take weeks to plan and can easily involve spending thousands of dollars on flights, renting vehicles, storage units, and so much more.

In response to this abrupt transition, all three schools in the AUC created an emergency fund for students to request money from to ease some of the financial strain related to their move home. In addition to this already being a difficult situation, the timing could not have been worse, being that many students had likely spent a large portion of their savings on spring break festivities and were even less prepared than normal to fund a premature move home. Besides the fact that most students who requested money were not given everything they needed, many students’ requests were also denied! This left many students to their own devices as they had to quickly put a plan together to move off-campus by the designated date.
As of the writing of this blog, March 25, all students (without prior approval from their institutions) have been moved off campus by now.

I am writing this from my desk in my student apartment in Atlanta, where I have never chosen to work previously because of my inability to stay focused at home. I am a few days into the new digital semester and over these past few days, it has become painfully obvious the issue that online classes pose for many of my classmates. Through our Zoom sessions, many of them have expressed concerns regarding not having access to the internet or a laptop from home, and the absent student’s stories going untold. Beyond the issues that the lack of access to technology poses, many were uncertain about their ability to successfully focus on classes in their home environment. Whether it be new time-consuming responsibilities at home, embarking on a job search, or unstable home life, I have heard it all and our professors should be understanding of that.

Overall, most of the professors have been patient with us and even lightened the original course load. However, there are other professors who are determined to maintain the rigor of the course as originally planned with little concern for students’ physical or mental state during this time.

The coronavirus is an issue like none of us have ever seen before and it has effectively shown us how our government and institutions will respond in a time of crisis. Being that this situation was unexpected, I believe that the institutions in the AUC have responded relatively well, but should remember that every student’s situation is not the same. I am hopeful that all of my classmates continue to transition into their distance learning as we finish out this semester. Though the future is uncertain at this point, I am hopeful that our institutions continue to handle this situation with compassion so that external factors do not impact a student’s ability to do what we’re all here to do; get an education.

How has your transition to remote learning/home been?
What could your institution have done to make it easier for you?