Campus Column: The coronavirus can be devastating, even if you don’t contract the disease

Olivia Shackleton, Campus Editor

Last week, as we hit the most hectic part of the semester, everyone’s world was turned upside down by an email sent by President Michael Johnson on March 10. Johnson alerted students, faculty and staff that John Carroll will transition to online courses starting March 16 and continuing until at least April 13. 

This was in response to Gov. Mike Dewine’s March 10 press conference that addressed three confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Cuyahoga County, where he advised “that Ohio limit a variety of large gatherings in order to protect public health.” DeWine urged colleges and universities to transition to online courses if possible. At the suggestion of the governor, Johnson announced the temporary transition. 

This email shocked me. I had heard of coronavirus in the past few months and was paying attention; however, even with the confirmed cases, I did not think it would personally affect me. I figured we already had returned from spring break — when some students travelled internationally — and the JCU students who visited Italy were being quarantined for two weeks. 

I could not have predicted how rapidly everything would unravel. My senior year, as well as my peers’ semester, would be distinctly altered by transitioning to online courses. I was and still am devastated. I love class discussions and being around my classmates. Even though I always try to be grateful for JCU, I had vowed that following spring break I’d take in every small moment. I’d sit by the fountain on the quad more, I’d appreciate my peers and professors more. I told myself that during these last few months at Carroll I would soak up the moments that have created such an amazing college experience. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, that is taken away. 

I know that many students, especially seniors, are feeling similarly. We are not getting to spend valuable time with our friends. We are facing the challenge of trying to stay motivated while taking online classes, and some feel that online classes are, as a follow-up email put it, “not what they signed up for.” We are heartbroken that the activities we have worked so hard for are being cancelled. Everything from sports to Celebration 2024 to Streak-a-thon has been cancelled. For me, it is probable that I will never have another deadline night or print edition of The Carroll News, which makes me extremely emotional. We all have special clubs and activities that we will not get to experience because of the transition. 

Outside of student issues, faculty have an overwhelming task ahead. Many courses are designed for hands-on activities, such as labs and multimedia projects, which will not fare well on digital platforms. Professors have spent the last few days adjusting each of their classes to work online. Many professors have never used online platforms, such as Zoom, which they are now expected to be comfortable enough to use for lectures and class discussions. After talking to several of my professors, I can tell that they are feeling just as stressed over this change as students are. 

I believe we are all united in this: We have so many questions. Will students get refunds, since they are not living or eating on campus for at least a month? Will JCU continue online through the rest of the semester or will we be able to return on April 13? Will staff, such as dining and maintenance, be paid wages during this period of being laid off? Will Zoom be able to support the heavy usage once online classes begin? These are just a few of the questions that come to mind when thinking about this situation. 

As we adapt to the changes during the second half of this semester, hopefully we can see beyond the issues affecting JCU and understand the broader impact of the coronavirus. Phil Metres, an English professor and the director of the Peace, Justice and Human Rights program, wrote a message to students about how this pandemic can be used to promote social justice. He explained that we are interdependent and should continue to connect with one another, even if we cannot be physically together. Metres wrote, “So reach out to each other (by phone, of course!). Check in with those you love, particularly the elders and the marginalized. Keep in mind that the most vulnerable of our society and of the world will bear the worst brunt of this, as they always do.”

Keeping this in mind, I hope we all continue to maintain and grow the relationships and friendships we’ve built during our time at JCU, even if we cannot be face-to-face.