It has been a marvelous week at Vassar College, as after nearly seven months of a mostly empty campus, students have returned to remind the Vassar Security team why they really dislike their jobs. As someone who has spent his entire summer in Poughkeepsie (and feels as if he’s lived 30 times over due to it) I think it would be wise to backtrack a bit. Reflect on how we got here. In the beginning of November 2019, the United States became aware of the coronavirus threat and immediately sprang into action…four and a half months later. From that moment on, everyone started wearing a mask, staying indoors, and respecting the lives of their fellow human beings. Somehow, though, this virus mutated and caused weird mind control effects that made people want to remove their masks and made them believe that the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people across the country and world were not a good enough reason to get their shit together for a few days and maybe not to go to the beach.
Anywhom, this global pandemic caused Vassar College and Disney World to close down at the height of spring break (I only bunch these two together because I was upset over their closures, not due to their similarities in being historically white institutions that cost a lot of money and drastically affect the local community). This online transition meant that many students who were home for break remained there for the rest of the semester and summer while students who were on campus had to try to safely return home. Though leaving friends behind is a total drag, many were excited to return to their parents and be able to study and learn from the comfort of their rooms, where their parents coincidentally could much more easily invade their privacy and personal space.
Online learning for Vassar was overall a big success. Professors came together and learned new teaching methods, and most were very lenient with grades and absences, while the students did their part by paying attention as they would in regular class and totally did not turn off their cameras so they could rip a bong during instructional time. The transition to Zoom learning also allowed a weird insight into the lives of students and professors, from the spaces they inhabited to what clothes they slept in, as I assume 80 percent of students woke up exactly 13 seconds before classes started. But most interesting of all was how the weeks became more and more unorthodox as the online learning environment progressed. For example, I Zoomed from my bathtub at one point (I was fully clothed and it was drained, I promise) because I live in a shared space, and it was the only space where it was completely quiet. I also witnessed a classmate leave his camera on, plug in headphones so he could listen to the class and literally build a canoe. Seriously a canoe, like out of wood. Amazing.
Overall, faculty and students alike were trying to make the most out of a bad situation. And though summer felt a bit longer than usual, never have I seen so many people so excited to return to school. It is almost as if spending day after day, hour after hour, with your parents or family, locked in a house, with no possibility of getting out, and still having to maintain a full school schedule without any of the activities that make you happy readily available to you can be a bit…much.
But folks, we made it. Whether you are back to campus or still doing it online, the fall semester is upon us. Take a step back, relax and get ready for this new experience. Actually, take a few more steps back. Around five steps should be fine. Perfect, thanks. Can’t be too careful these days.