Looking back on the fall semester
Sam Tapper – Managing Editor
As quickly as it began – it ended, and just after 14-weeks, the on-ground portion of the Fall 2020 semester has finally come to an end, with just 13 days before the winter break.
The university was one of the few to make it through its in-person semester without a major COVID-19 shutdown, unlike fellow state schools like Western Connecticut State University and the University of Connecticut, among others. With that in mind, is it a fair assumption to call the fall of 2020 a success or smooth?
The short answer is no. And the short response to that answer comes from the university’s COVID-19 Dashboard, outlining the number of positive tests per each round of on-campus testing as well as cumulative totals among all students, not just residents.
There were 175 positive test results among the campus community throughout the semester, according to the dashboard. While it could have been far worse, one student is one too many. And just by looking at the numbers, the university’s Achilles heel is evident: commuters.
Of the 175 total positives, 123 came from commuters, and each week they dominated the dashboard’s numbers. Until Southern and its COVID-19 team can come up with a finite plan for how to properly monitor, test, trace and potentially isolate commuters, things will continue to run as they have been.
While, again, we were very fortunate to have made it to the target date set back in the summer, it was no secret circumstances that started to feel worse and moods started to shift in the waning weeks of the semester. We all most likely had a close call with a potential COVID-19 exposure or at least know a fellow student who did. I personally had numerous moments where I scrambled to get tested based on my contact with certain people, all of whom were commuters. And as we got closer to the end, this seemed to be a more regular and ongoing occurrence.
Going to college during a pandemic is rough, that much is certain. However, taking the entire semester into account, from the blue dots signifying safe seats to classes being held half-zoom half in-person and all the plexiglass you could ever imagine, the semester does not feel like a victory. It does not feel like a comeback story, it is not a rejoicing feeling of having completed it.
However, it is relieving that I made it through as healthy as I was when it began. But, until the administration has a more concrete plan for how to slow the spread and monitor the health of all students, not just residents, I will not feel comfortable going back, at least no more comfortable than I felt going into the fall back in August.
To shed light on the situation even further, the faculty and staff of the university should still be commended for their efforts. Nobody’s job has been easy, whether you are a professor, manager, or administrator. While things are not perfect, it was the fact that everyone working together diligently with one another that completing such a semester was possible.
At the end of the day, this was a different semester. There were half as many students on campus, no sports or any other major events to establish a community and everyone was trying not to get sick. But the maturity of students and flexibility of staff are what made this possible.
So, while we should not be spiking the football and breaking into a touchdown dance, at the very least we can pat ourselves on the back. We have certainly earned that much.