College Seniors “Heartbroken” Over COVID-19 School Cancellations
LA VERNE, Calif.– The University of La Verne announced a suspension of all in-person classes and school events due to concerns over the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on March 14. Within six days, all students living on campus were expected to evacuate. Faculty members were also prohibited from returning to campus.
Remy Hogan, senior and communications major with a concentration in public affairs, was one of many students devastated to hear the news about the cancellation of their senior year.
“Instantly as a senior, I was heartbroken because there are so many things you look forward to during your senior year,” Hogan said. “I was heartbroken to know that I won’t be able to walk across the stage with my best friends that I have made throughout these four years.”
The reality is the traditional ways of learning have drastically changed for many students. College students are learning through the screens of their phones or computers, while lectures are conducted on Zoom or WebX.
College is a place where students can receive a well-rounded education, learning through their peers, professors, textbooks and lectures. College gives students a chance to create everlasting friendships and memories.
Yet, last month, colleges cut their school year short due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
Educational institutes across the country transitioned the remainder of their school year to online learning. The decision was made to maintain the health of their faculty members and students in order to limit exposure.
Experiences have been taken away from the graduating class of 2020, such as in-person classes, senior activities, school events, athletics and even graduation ceremonies.
Online learning is “harder for some students”
Online learning has always been an option for students before the coronavirus outbreak, but it does not necessarily favor every student.
Natalie Gutierrez, senior and public relations major, had a difficult time connecting to her Zoom class discussion on the first day. Occasionally, she would receive a bad Wifi signal. She was later able to adjust to her online learning experience.
“I think it is harder for some students to participate on Zoom and stay focused,” Gutierrez said, “I live with six other people, and there can be many distractions.”
Senior journalism major, Savannah Dingman, overall enjoys the online learning experience and using websites such as Zoom to speak with her classmates and professors.
“I think it gives us a sense of normality, I really have nothing but positive things to say about Zoom,” Dingman said. “We are able to get some minutes of human interaction, like you can go all day without talking to anyone, and then you get on Zoom.”
However, Dingman has noticed her professors are adding more assignments to her online classes.
“You don’t feel like you’re doing much because you’re just at home every day, so I think giving us more assignments might make them feel like they are doing their job more,” Dingman said. “It is like, ‘Oh, we can’t give them full lectures over Zoom, so I will just give them more assignments.”
Professor of Journalism, George Keeler, has also noticed many of his students do not have to correct technology to learn comfortably from their own home or know how to use learning tools such as Blackboard.
“We all assume that this generation is digitally native, but they are not digitally native,” Keeler said. “I am getting [anywhere] from 200-250 emails every day from students, who wait for the Zoom session to be over to ask me questions about how to turn in an assignment or use Blackboard.”
Faculty members were forced to switch to online teaching with little time to prepare their classes, making the transition overwhelming for many professors, he explained.
“I had very little time to get out of my office, I quickly downloaded my computer onto a hard drive, and I took what I could carry up the stairs of the ACB knowing that I would have to teach for a good two months with what I had to carry up the stairs,” Keeler said.
With the school year canceled, it is unlikely these seniors will have a traditional commencement ceremony in the spring.
Other universities in California, such as the University of Southern California, announced students will undergo their commencement ceremony virtually in May.
La Verne’s neighboring university, Azusa Pacific University, also announced its commencement will be online. Students from the university created a petition on Change.org to postpone the ceremony instead of canceling it.
As of now, La Verne has not made any official announcements to cancel or reschedule their commencement ceremony.
Dingman is one of many seniors looking forward to her commencement ceremony, as she would be recognized as an athlete and on the dean’s list.
“I really hope our commencement ceremony is not going to be online,” Dingman said. “I hope our faculty, our board, and our president understands that this is something people want to do in person.”
Graduation is an event many students look forward to celebrating.
“Getting that degree in front of friends and family has so much pride around it–like your family is sitting there tearing up at how proud they are of you,” Matthew Pedroza, biology major and thrower for the La Verne track and field team, said. “It honestly feels like I’m getting cheated out of experiences this year.”
Senior athletes “hurt” over suspended seasons
The 2020 school year has been an adjustment period for every student and professor across the nation. Yet, not only was the in-person school experience taken away, but many senior athletes’ seasons were cut short as well.
Many seniors were not able to receive closure for the last four years of their athletic careers.
“Honestly, it hurt, I’ve been an athlete for all my life and to just have it yanked away really impacted me. I didn’t want to do anything or want to talk, or eat for a couple of days,” Pedroza said. “You know you train so hard and put so much effort to get to the top, and not even get a chance to show your skillset, it was tough.”
Senior kinesiology major and sprinter for the La Verne Track and field team, Jade Griffin, heard the news on her way back home from the airport to compete in the NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championship.
“It wasn’t until Coach Wood came up to me with this devastating look on his face that I knew my season was done along with every other athlete and senior hoping to compete one last time,” Griffin said.
She added: “If I could describe it, I would say it’s like watching your hopes, dreams, and hard work being taken from you, and there is nothing you can do about it but sit and watch it crumble before your eyes.”
Senior athletes often look forward to their final season to celebrate their athletic careers during their senior night, which is a special event where athletes are able to showcase their skills in front of family and friends.
“The only thing that has given me hope is knowing that God has a better plan for all of us. He does not do anything without reason, for all this pain, uncertainty, and heartache will bring a bigger and better-blessed outcome,” Griffin said. “That’s what has given me the strength to understand and come to terms with any of it.”
Many seniors have felt a great disappointment due to the cancellation of the school year, and each one of them looks back on all they have accomplished and the memories they have made during their time in college.
Some of these memories include: going to football games, social gatherings, practices, weight room sessions, late-night trips to Jack in the Box, nerf gunfights in the dorms, making their first college goal, telling ghost stories and creating everlasting friendships.
“What gives me hope is that I believe it’ll turn out for the better,” Pedroza said.
“I look at it as a sign for me to focus more on prepping for medical school admissions tests. I pray that no loved one gets sick, but overall I take it one day at a time and focus on the positive.”
This year has been “a rough one with all my losses,” Pedroza added, but he trusts “it will get better.”