University reacts to the COVID-19 pandemic

Nicole Yeager, News Editor

On Tuesday, Mar. 10, halfway through spring break, students across the globe reacted to University President John Bravman’s momentous announcement: the University would transition to a remote education mode for the remainder of the semester. This decision came in the midst of the onset of COVID-19, quickly declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. As a result of the coronavirus and the University’s decision, spring break was cut short while students arranged to move out of their dorms or houses — needless to say, the spring semester and school year were also cut short. 

Abby Harris ’22 reflected on her initial thoughts. “It’s crazy because I remember coming back from Christmas break and one of my friends talking about a disease called coronavirus in China, and I had no clue what it really was. Sometimes I wish I could just go back to a time where coronavirus wasn’t the sole topic of conversation, but I know that’s impossible,” she said.

Members across class years have had a shared feeling of loss, whether it be freshmen whose first-year experience was cut short or seniors who were unable to complete their last year in the ways they had hoped.

Additionally, the announcement had a significant impact on the University’s international students, many of whom still remain on campus. “It has not been easy for us,” said Katherine Pan ’22. “Due to the pandemic, a lot of us can’t even get a ticket to go home. Some people also have very limited access to fresh [food] if they don’t have a car. Not being able to be with your family is harder at this time than expected, but we do feel the love from the faculty and staff as well as the local community. There are free meals provided every day and some groceries at the ELC. More importantly, Bucknell still provides housing, which a lot of colleges don’t do anymore. It’s very considerate.”

One prominent source of stress and disturbance has been the transition from in-person classes to remote online classes within the entire University. Professors have had to convert their course material to fit an online format, further familiarizing themselves with Moodle and Zoom, and even modify their teaching styles in some cases. In addition to the overt change in form, which already poses a challenge in and of itself, there is a lack of structure that leaves students having to push themselves to complete their work. Stem majors must complete their critical labs virtually, humanities majors must harbor class-wide discussions through video chats, and many business and art majors lack the support and facilities available to them on campus. 

Chris Lagana ’21 shared his experience.“Not being on campus while completing the rest of the semester has definitely been tough. My school work, clubs and social life have all been drastically affected. The transition to online learning definitely isn’t my favorite thing, but the University community has done a fantastic job of trying to incorporate as much of the Bucknell experience as they can,” he said. 

In an attempt to provide support to the campus community, various University organizations have learned to adapt to this change. Professors and students are breaking down ordinary boundaries to ask how the other is doing and share thoughtful words. Many student clubs and organizations are making use of Zoom to maintain relationships and serve as support groups. Similarly, many student resources on campus have constructed contingency plans to ensure their availability; the Writing Center remains open with virtual Zoom sessions, students can still rely on the Teaching & Learning Center for tutoring; and the Center for Career Advancements continues to offer their help. 

Likewise, the Bucknell Student Government has met over Zoom with Dean Badal to keep with their customs.“We offer our support with anything they need help with, such as continuing to promote Bucknell to the incoming class and reaching out to current students to gain perspectives about the fall semester,” said BSG’s Vice President of Administration, Miranda Williams ’22.

Additionally, the University continues to hold online events to replace those that would have taken place on-campus. One of these was the Student Leadership Awards, where presenters awarded recipients over Zoom on Tuesday, April 21. The Stadler Center’s Annual Student Reading was also held via Webinar on Thursday, April 23. The University Fraternity and Sorority Affairs partnered with the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council to host a virtual “Scattered Herd” 5k to raise money for a local meal program, as well. 

Many students have expressed missing these various communities and friends that make the University home to all. “Connecting with friends has been made harder than just going to Bertrand or the Bison to socialize, but the online Zoom sessions with friends have shown me who are my true close friends,” said Lagana. “Club meetings have become few and far between, but I still look forward to our biweekly meetings where I get to share my personal thoughts on what’s going on. I miss the campus and hanging out with my friends, but larger circumstances don’t allow for that to happen right now so we just have to make the most of what we do have right now.”

Abby Harris echoed these sentiments. “I would take 8 a.m. classes every morning if I could be back at my favorite place with my favorite people in the world,” she said. It’s honestly the little things that I miss the most: dinners at the Bison after chapter, sitting in my tiny dorm room with way too many crowded people on my couch just hanging out and the view of the RTK quad from my window. I cannot wait to be back.”

I certainly miss my friends and the extracurriculars, but having the hope that the fall semester might happen makes me less sad. It’s been a crazy year, but I think we should all do our parts to try to get over this as soon as possible,” said Pan

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