I want to shed some light on fall semester plans from a student’s perspective. As an incoming senior, this is my very last year and marks the culmination of my college experience. So, before we consider the possibility of making fall online, I would like to express some of my concerns. Firstly, having online classes will not be helpful to anyone. The actual quality of what we are learning has decreased significantly.
Cornell only has one option for the fall 2020 semester: to cancel it and replace it with a summer term in 2021. In-person instruction, even if we somehow manage to sit six feet apart from one another in lecture, would undo the positive, decisive action that the University took this semester to ensure our community’s safety. It is impossible, given what we know about this virus, to guarantee the safety of our community in the fall. Even the most optimistic of our public health experts predict that this virus will return after its initial curve “flattens.” This is already happening in China and Singapore, amongst others, both of which enforced much stricter lockdowns than the United States. Our Ithaca community is simply too remote and its health care system too tenuous for us to take this risk.
No question quickens my pulse more than, “What do you study?” Do I lead with the answer? Do I follow with a list of my most enrapturing courses? Or, do I wait and evaluate how much of the validity I earned by saying I go to Cornell will depart from their faces when I reveal my major? “English.” Oh my god, backtrack, reboot, new plan. They think I write bad poetry in a candle-lit room surrounded by second-hand copies of the British canon.
The other day I was talking to my friend about the first week back in class, and her first words to me were, “It’s frustration station, man.” While it’s been good to see familiar faces again (albeit sometimes at strange angles with varying levels of resolution and out-of-sync audio), online class has not been an easy transition for many. I’ve heard pleas for advice on how to do work and stay motivated when your laptop is your source of both education and entertainment, and you could easily work from not just home, but a very comfy bed or couch. We’ve been on break for almost a month and are being dropped straight back into the middle of the semester. This ain’t easy. While I’m going to include some “tips and tricks” to feel a little less adrift, I think it’s also important to have an open conversation and to feel comfortable admitting that some of us, me included, are struggling.