JCU English Department hosts Food and Prose event after pandemic pause



The JCU Food and Prose event takes campus after two years.

Daniele Bush, The Carroll News

The second floor of the O’Malley Center is still. Only the faint ruffling of tablecloths and whispers of professors can be heard as the clock tower chimes five o’clock. On one side of the corridor sits a folding table covered in custard, cookies, and packets of tea ready to be steeped by the electric kettle. Mirroring it is another table decorated with savory snacks and a small speaker softly crooning saxophone throughout the atrium.

Gradually, the whispers turn into regular speech and then into a roar as students and professors gather in clusters to chat and get to know one another. The first English Department event of the semester is in full swing at John Carroll University.

For only an hour on March 3, 2022, the Food and Prose event hosted by the English Department caused the usually serene atmosphere of the O’Malley Center to be bustling with energy for the first time in two years. Beginning in March 2020, the English Department, like many others, was devastated by the isolation of the pandemic. Students were forced to move online and never got to know those in their major. The pandemic caused a brief, noticeable loneliness for the 2020-2021 academic school year.

When asked about how he thought COVID-19 impacted the community, Dylan Pendergast ‘24 spoke about the social difficulties of life on campus. “It’s made group events harder to have so you’re forced to connect with only people in the dorm. For others, it prevents them from having an artist circle.”

Pendergast wasn’t the only one to speak out about how the pandemic upset John Carroll University. “It’s been very lonely in the hallways of the English Department since the COVID lockdown,” says poet and English professor George Bilgere. “We’re trying to bring a little life back.”

Many of the English Department events were canceled or held remotely which resulted in low numbers. For two years, life on campus had been quiet and Maryclaire Moroney, Head of the English Department, spoke about her hopes of the English major get-together. 

“We’re hoping for post-pandemic return, gestures, or steps towards a normal number of activities on campus,” she says. “There’s been fewer opportunities for people to be in events together.”

Her colleague, Jean Feerick, commented further about the lack of events and why Food and Prose was hosted. “We knew students were craving more community both at the undergraduate and graduate levels,” she said.

People seemed to jump at the occasion, too. With over 30 people attending, the talk didn’t dwindle even after the hour was up. Many members that were not English majors even dropped by to grab a free cookie and mill about the atrium. Attendees saw friends they haven’t seen in some time and professors got to know their students beyond computer screens and surgical masks.

With the success of the event, the English department wants to continue to host get togethers as the semester continues. 

“We were hoping to do it every two weeks because you just get to know each other and it creates a better environment and culture,” says Feerick.

Moving forward, students of all majors are invited to come to future cookies and tea parties. If you happened to miss the last event, keep an eye out for advertisements of the next Food and Prose event as more are guaranteed to come. With spring approaching and mask restrictions lessening, life on campus seems to be bustling post pandemic, especially in the English Department.