After the coronavirus pandemic, can Washington College ever truly “return to normal”?

By Lexi Meola                                                      

Elm Staff Writer

If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it is how fast things can change. 

It does not seem too long ago that Washington College went on spring break, and now we’re in our third week of online learning. Students are forced to take their classes at home without the added social benefits of college. Freshman students have yet to experience college life on campus. 

Many WC students are left wondering where they go from here.

Students at other colleges, such as the University of Notre Dame and the University of Alabama, have returned to campus. 

Since then, more than 8,700 cases of COVID-19 have been reported at American colleges, according to CNN. This increase in cases has made the reality of a spring semester on campus more unlikely.

Before the pandemic, online learning seemed like a favorable alternative to most college students, who may have liked the idea of not having to leave their rooms for class and having more time to themselves. 

Now that virtual learning is a reality, many students have deemed it a nightmare. Zoom fatigue and technology issues, in addition to outside stressors such as the movement for racial justice and the 2020 presidential election, have made learning much more difficult. 

Many students and professors have already expressed their grievances with online learning.

“The pessimistic view is that [students] are going to hate it and never want to do this again, because all they’re doing is using Zoom to reproduce everything that’s wrong with traditional passive, teacher-centered modes of teaching,” Bill Cope, professor of education policy, told The New York Times

After speaking to various WC students, almost all of them said they could not do another semester of virtual learning from home. 

“The main reason most of us go away to college and spend the money to do so rather than going to online universities is the ability to work close to others and have social experiences,” senior Will Rotsch said. 

Another problem that students are facing in the new learning format is a lack of communication between professors and students. Most of these communication issues stem from technological difficulties. WC students and professors are suffering at the hands of technology and it’s starting to show.

“This lack of communication causes the quality of education to diminish drastically,”  sophomore Stephen Marvelsaid.

When asked about their biggest concerns with returning to campus, many students said their main fear was people refusing to wear a mask. There is also a concern over people throwing parties or not following social distancing guidelines. It was suggested that the school should fine students who violate social distancing and mask mandates.

“They should put more hand sanitizer stations all around campus,” sophomore Gianna Cannao said. 

If WC administrators want their students to feel safe on campus, they should talk to them, look at other universities, and learn from the mistakes that these other schools made when they reopened.

There is nothing “normal” about the times we are living in. There is no normal to return to. We must adapt to these changes to keep our community and those around us safe. 

Above, an empty walkway in front of Smith Hall. Featured Photo: a barrier blocks an empty campus. Photos by Mark Cooley.

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