A senior’s perspective

Hannah Schaffer expresses disappointment about the spring semester and contentment with Allegheny's response to COVID-19

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I have never been an incredibly superstitious person, but as I left campus on Friday, March 13, for what was then-predicted to be spring break followed by one week of remote learning, I knew things were about to take a turn for the worse.  

Just a few days later, students were notified via email that Allegheny College would be shifting to online instruction for the remainder of the semester. Although the news was unpleasant, it was predictable. Institutions such as Mercyhurst University and Grove City College had already announced similar decisions. 

International students were the first to be notified of the decision and were asked not to share the news with other students until it was officially announced later that day. While I understand the reasoning behind notifying international students first, since their travel plans require a lot more than carpooling to Pittsburgh, what this actually led to was students finding out random bits and pieces of the decision at random times. 

The email from International Education was quickly leaked, and many of us found out about the decision from frantic texts from friends. 

I, like most college seniors across the country, experienced waves of sadness as I watched the last of my rowdy college days slip away. Online classes meant no Springfest, no senior week and no commencement. It felt as though everything I had been waiting for over the past three and a half years was being torn away.

 Even though I knew the decision was made with everyone’s best interests in mind, it was hard to face the facts and even harder to find the motivation to keep up with school work. 

Provost and Dean of the College Ron Cole announced to students that the college would be adopting a credit/no credit grading policy for the remainder of the semester via email on Monday, April 6. 

For me personally, and I assume a lot of other students, this was a huge relief. Living in social isolation is not an easy task. At first, I thought I would excel in all my classes since it seemed as though I had nothing but free time. 

However, I quickly realized that more free time does not equal higher levels of productivity. Instead, most of my day is spent watching news reports and wondering when all of this will finally be over. I still find it hard to believe that all of this is happening.

Some institutions have decided to default to automatic As for the semester, while others have adopted similar policies to Allegheny’s credit/no credit. Personally, I fully support Allegheny’s policy. While it would have been nice to receive an automatic A, that would not be true to Allegheny’s academic integrity. This policy encourages us to continue to learn and expand our minds, while also acknowledging the hurdles we are facing. 

While not everyone will agree with this statement, I feel that Allegheny’s administration has done a great job in responding to the pandemic. It is important to remember that this is uncharted territory, for everyone involved. 

An array of emotions were felt among the senior class when President Link sent an email announcing that commencement for the class of 2020 will be held on Sunday, Oct. 25.

Some students are still upset that they will not get the full senior week experience, while others are thrilled that they will have a chance to actually say a proper goodbye to the place that has been their home for the last four years. 

Of course, there are still concerns about this date. Many students are not sure whether they will be able to make it back to campus due to their post-graduate plans. However, the real concern comes from the possible resurgence of COVID-19 that may take place in the fall, and at the end of the day, there is still a chance that we may not be able to gather in large quantities by October. 

As it turns out, what felt catastrophic for the class of 2020 might actually be more painful for the class of 2021. Although Allegheny has made no official statements on how the college will proceed in the fall, it is increasingly looking like colleges and universities will remain online for the fall, if not the entire year. 

I hope that the class of 2020 will be able to have their graduation and that the class of 2021 will be able to have a proper senior year. However, what remains most important is that we do everything in our power to stay safe and healthy and protect those who are most vulnerable to the virus. 

While this was a devastating end to a remarkable four years, I am so grateful to have the memories that I do and am hopeful that I will be able to say a proper goodbye in October.