Students reflect on first week of classes

Sam TapperEditor-In-Chief

With the extension of winter break by an extra week, it had been nearly two months since students had set foot on campus. Despite the first official day of classes being Jan. 26, students were forced to wait an additional week before occupying the campus once more. 

In a statement from Vice President of Student Affairs Tracey Tyree, distributed to students via email through Patrick Dilger just two weeks before students were set to return, it was announced that the first week of classes would be entirely remote to help minimize the spread of COVID-19. 

“Due to the post-holiday surge of coronavirus cases in the state, the on-campus start of the spring semester will be delayed until Monday, February 1,” Tyree said in the statement. “Classes will begin as scheduled on January 26, but they will be fully virtual until the following week.” 

While the change did pose several challenges to students living in the residence halls, requiring them to quarantine in their dorms until the second week, students generally were not opposed to this semi-last minute audible of having online classes for week one. 

“I think the modified first week of classes to a 100 percent online and remote class style was a very thought out and well executed plan by the university,” said athletic training major Megan Dombrowski, a junior. “The idea behind it was to keep more students safe and be able to get residential students moved in, in hopes of decreasing the risk of a major COVID spike at the beginning of the semester.” 

Dombrowski added that while the short notice “put more stress in the lives of both students and professors,” she does not believe there will be any negative long-term effects of the first week throughout the rest of the semester. 

“For the students, many were still trying to figure out when they would be able to move to campus,” Dombrowski said, “for professors, many of them probably already had lesson plans completed for the beginning of the semester. For example, one of my professors emailed us shortly after we found out about being remote for the first week, and he was not aware and had to change plans.” 

Many students were aware of the stress and potential lags some professors were likely experiencing. Some professors are more technologically fluent than others, always having to formally set up video calls for class, while easy for some, adds a whole extra step, as opposed to just reporting to a classroom at a specific time. 

“I feel like the short notice probably gave [professors] less time to organize and prepare. That all goes with trying to set up ways to communicate with students, like creating Zooms, WebExs and pre-recorded lectures,” said nursing major Reem Hack, a freshman. “One of my professors actually still hasn’t been able to host class for two class periods because of the short notice, [the university] still needs to give him permission to use Zoom.” 

For some students, this came as a convenience. For biochemistry major Aleah O’Brady, a sophomore, a medical emergency occurred at the last minute, and without the switch to remote learning she likely would not have been able to attend classes at all. 

“I actually had to be taken to the hospital so I’m in bed at home until next week,” O’Brady said. “I think this is perfect.” 

While O’Brady was pleased with her personal situation, she acknowledged the difficulties this could pose for other students. 

“Everyone had plans and things they were planning to do, like get books for classes,” O’Brady said. 

While the bookstore was open, staff was limited and students were not always able to get there to get books, as commuters were largely asked to stay away from campus and residents asked to remain in their respective residence halls. 

Overall, students generally seemed in favor of the decision to go remote for the first week. However, opinions on if the modified start to the semester would help minimize COVID-19 cases on campus throughout the semester were mixed. 

“People will still go out and can bring COVID in during classes, and people go to work still,” said O’Brady. “This does nothing but slow down the rate of COVID positives for a week.” 

Dombrowski shared some of O’Brady’s skepticism, but she believed that it would. It is in the hands of the campus community to minimize the spread of the virus, whether classes are shifted remotely or not. 

“It will truly take a team effort from everyone,” Dombrowski said, “on and off campus to be smart, be safe and look out for themselves and those around them in order for the Southern community to keep the positive cases down.”  

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