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COVID-19 Spread Affects Student Plans and Perspectives

By: Lily Sperber

Nearly all classrooms remain empty as classes move online. (Photo by: Lily Sperber)

With Coronavirus continuing to spread and affect college policies, many students are left acclimating to the many ways that their lives on campus have changed in just one week.

Following Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement on Wednesday that SUNY and CUNY campuses would be switching to distance learning, students began encountering the first changes to their academics, as well as their semester overall.

“I think most of the decisions that have been made are the right ones,” said Joshua Goodstein, a transfer cinema studies major. “Particularly moving classes online, canceling events, and making all dining take-out. I left campus the night before this all went down so nothing has immediately affected me other than that I can't go back to get my books to read for fun.”

Alternatively, some students see recent changes as more troubling.

“I'm sad that the rest of the semester is moving online,” said Alex Belyaninov, a sophomore history major. “It means a lot of us are going home, and we won't see each other on a regular basis as often. I'm also realizing how much I took a classroom environment for granted, now I want it back.”

For most students, the change to distance learning means using a program called ‘Zoom’ to attend their classes via video conference.

“I've only had one Zoom session so far, but it went smoothly,” said Goodstein. “All of my professors this semester are relatively young so I can't speak for how it's going for less technologically savvy professors.”

For those in more hands-on academic programs, such as BFA and music majors, the switch to online classes has been a particularly challenging adjustment.

“Most of my classes switched online, but the whole dynamic of the classes really changed,” said Carlos Rivera, a freshman jazz major. “We can’t cover a lot of topics online due to the limitations it presents. A lot of my classes are auditory, and we do a lot of playing back what we hear, we play together, or we need to hear a certain chord. There have been online lags, it’s harder to understand a professor and they have to work even harder to try and get their point across.”

Other students have faced similar technical difficulties on the application.

“This past Tuesday, I had my Studio Composition masterclass online,” said Arianna Pappas, a sophomore studio composition major. “The audio was not working, possibly because of an issue with Zoom. I had to switch over to my phone, which severely overheated by the end of our class. Having my classes switched to online has definitely been a big change, but I am attempting to stay open-minded about it since it's necessary, given the circumstances.”

With most classes moving completely online, many students have already moved home.

“This has taken a toll on my mental health as I wasn’t prepared to come back home on such short notice, I had to leave all of the new friends I made and formed bonds with,” said Rivera. “It was kind of forced on me; my parents had gotten a ticket once they heard the semester was online. I felt helpless because it kind of just left without a choice.”

Whether students decide to stay on campus or head home early, many feel that they should be refunded for what they won’t be receiving.

“The administrators deciding to only close the academic buildings and not the residence or dining halls is a smart move for people who physically cannot go home, but I hope they decide to refund at least part of students' housing and meal plans,” said Pappas. “If the students who return home are not using these services for the rest of the semester, it is only fair that they are reimbursed.”

One major aspect of campus life that students will no longer get to participate in are public events and gatherings, including events and clubs under the PSGA.

“I am very disappointed that all public events and social gatherings have been canceled,” said Pappas. “I was so excited for Culture Shock and to attend my fellow musicians' senior recitals at the conservatory. I also planned to book more performances at the Stood, since I am a singer-songwriter with a desire to share my music with the Purchase community. It stinks not being able to have these opportunities anymore.”

With a lack of things to do on campus, or even while being back at home, students are dealing with increased boredom, as well as struggles with maintaining their mental health.

“The issue is figuring out how to stay busy on campus because most of my friends are either gone or planning to leave,” said Belyaninov. “Online learning is also going to impact me because it will suck waking up in the morning and not going to a physical classroom. I'm also scared about people losing their sanity more than I am about the virus. Most of my friends are going nuts and it's hard to be sane when the world around you is crumbling.”

Some students believe that there are ways these changes could be made easier.

“They should definitely implement having more counselors since a lot of people cannot afford therapists and will need to see a professional on how to cope with the pandemic,” said Belyaninov.

Others believe that awareness by the college and faculty may also be helpful.

“There really isn’t much they can do, it’s just a sad situation,” said Rivera. “If anything, they should be a little aware of their students' mental health, because a lot of students are just going through it right now.”

One student proposed a way that could allow students to stay healthy while also not being completely isolated.

“I think that more attention should be paid to figuring out ways for students to socialize with each other while maintaining proper social distancing,” said Goodstein. “Communal film or tv watching on Zoom or moving club meetings online. The internet is an extremely powerful tool for preventing total social isolation while still allowing people to remain physically far away from each other, and it should be getting used by the school for more than just classes.”



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