Students of all grade levels are expressing disappointment and anger over the fact that their semesters have been cut short and college experiences forever impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
In the wake of the global pandemic currently sweeping across the world, Virginia Tech followed the example of other universities nationwide and announced Wednesday, March 11, that it would be extending its spring break by a week. Classes are being converted from in-person to online classes beginning March 23. Additionally, it was announced that all university-sponsored events through April 30 expected to attract 100 or more people would be canceled, as well as all summer study abroad programs.
While the measures taken by the university to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are an appropriate response to the growing crisis, the decision nevertheless has had a huge impact on students. Virginia Tech students and students at other universities nationwide have taken to every social media platform imaginable, from Twitter to TikTok, to express their sadness and anger over the fact that their semesters have been cut short. For many, the disappointment goes deeper than just being stuck at home for a few months and calling into class via Zoom.
“As a senior, this has meant the abrupt end of all things that I thought I still had time to say goodbye to,” said Ashley Deans, a marketing management major. Deans was an active member of the Marching Virginians as part of the color guard and also participated in Valiant, the indoor color guard team at Virginia Tech. “Our remaining competitions, including championships, have been canceled,” Deans said. “I’ve been spinning for eight years and wasn’t ready to so abruptly say goodbye to this sport. I had no idea that my most recent performance would be my last.”
Deans also said that the impact carries beyond her college experience. “The job search has become significantly more difficult. Not having access to campus resources combined with companies hiring less is very anxiety-inducing,” she said. “It’s intimidating to have no idea what tomorrow looks like.”
Anna Cheema, a junior majoring in criminology and political science, is president of Students for Non-Violence, an organization founded in the wake of the 2007 shooting. “Our aim is to promote peace and non-violence, as well as to raise awareness about social issues on campus.” Cheema said that Students for Non-Violence only recently became an active club again. “We planned to have an open mic night in April, and it was a huge deal because the organization hasn’t had a real event in a very long time,” she said. “We were collaborating with organizations like RAFT and Moms Demand Action. I had been working on this for months, and it’s just really sad to see that it won’t happen this semester.”
The cancellation of all major events essentially decimated this semester’s roster of things to do at Virginia Tech. Keystone student service events like Relay For Life and The Big Event, long-standing university traditions such as Ring Dance and the Run to Remember, and even student favorites like the annual spring football game all had to be shut down in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
Events on campus are oftentimes more than just an extracurricular; for many undergraduate students, they’re a way to gain experience that can open doors into the professional world. Brett Anderson is a second-semester senior majoring in marketing at Virginia Tech. Anderson’s main involvement on campus was through efforts to bring the Up and Up Festival, a concert contest that chooses a major artist to perform on campuses nationwide, to Virginia Tech. Tech placed third nationwide.
“For the past year and a half, I’ve been meeting local student DJs, meeting Hokies who love electronic music and spearheading campaigns to bring an epic concert to Virginia Tech,” Anderson said. Now, like all other spring events on campus, the festival will no longer happen. “I’m heartbroken, because not only did I work really hard to make this happen, but this was essentially my interview for a music industry career,” he said.
For some students, the transition to online classes is as simple as taking notes via Zoom lecture or submitting assignments online via Canvas. However, for others, it’s not that easy. Diana Hall, a sophomore majoring in public and urban affairs, plays trumpet in one of the jazz ensembles and has seen firsthand how the School of Performing Arts is going to be affected by the transition. “Realistically, there is no way to perform online,” she said. “Dozens of student performers are disappointed beyond measure that they don’t have the opportunities to perform again until next semester.”
“This includes music faculty too, who have spent their time to carefully select musical pieces and structure rehearsals to create performances that will no longer happen,” Hall said. She went on to talk about how the change doesn’t just affect music majors, but students and faculty across all concentrations who choose to pursue performance art. “Performance is a way all of us are able to express our artistic side outside of academics and we use music as a form of self-expression we can’t get anywhere else.”
The transition is going to be difficult for students across the board, as online learning is almost never preferable to in-person lectures and discussion. Connor Lindsay, a freshman in general engineering hoping to pursue computer science, expressed concerns over logging into online learning in large lecture classes. “I really worry about network connectivity when it comes to 400-plus people trying to log on at once,” he said. Lindsay is just one of the thousands of freshmen whose first year at Virginia Tech has been memorable, to say the least, from start to finish: The Class of 2023 began the year facing a housing crisis and ended it early with a global pandemic.
The crisis continues to evolve and changes seem to come daily, if not hourly. How the university will continue to react and how things will look further into the spring remains to be seen. However, Lindsay summed up pretty simply how a lot of students are feeling at the moment: “It’s just difficult. I miss all my friends.”