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Distance in A Pandemic: Howard University Students Face COVID-19

By Airielle Lowe, Staff Reporter

As the year progresses, so has COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, leaving much of the world uncertain of what lies in the future, with cases and deaths escalating. President Trump has declared a nationwide emergency, cities and states are on lockdown, businesses have closed and college campuses across the U.S, including Howard University (which has had confirmed cases), have shut down for the entirety of the semester—leaving many college students disheveled and anxious for what’s to come next.

When Howard University first declared that classes would move online following spring break, many of its students were anxious to see what exactly that would entail. This was especially the case regarding professors who were not already on Blackboard, professors who weren’t tech-savvy and most importantly, time zones.

Morning classes such as the infamous 8 a.m. are now 5 a.m. for those who live on the west coast, proving to be greatly inconvenient for students who are required to be up and attending these online meetings, and a headache to figure out how to deal with for professors.

“The time zone is super rough, I have to wake up at 4:30 a.m. to get ready for classes and I have a full schedule of classes so it’s hard to balance [the] time zone and homework,” said Lillian Lo, a sophomore psychology major.

Lo is one of many students living on the west coast, residing in Los Angeles where she spoke about her experience thus far.  Lo also mentioned that her professors were currently not attempting to accommodate her schedule at the moment.

Some have also expressed great concern on Twitter for students who have professors that are not taking the fact that upon arriving home, not all students are given the luxury of continuing life as normal. Everyone’s home life is not the same, and although it is a general belief that online classes would be easier to deal with given you could work from the comfort of your room, not all students live in environments where working from home is peaceful.

Larger families living under one roof can make studying and working more difficult, and there are some students entering back into what they’ve described as abusive households. Considering the fact that the arrival of the coronavirus has created mandatory quarantine and the closing of non-essential businesses, leaving to go to the library or even the park aren’t always options anymore. 

Senior biology major Clara Ekezie praised Howard for taking some steps in the right direction, though she felt as if the university could work on some aspects of the entire situation better. Ekezie, however, mentioned that she has been personally affected financially by Howard’s lack of response to the work-study and student employment situation. 

 “I have student employment on campus and now we are unsure of if we would be able to continue to get paid even though we are at home,” said Ekezie. 

This is especially worrying due to the fact that Ekezie finds herself independent of her parents, and unable to continue working at her second job due to the virus closing down the business.

Of all of the problems faced by college students, many have raised major concerns about a moment every college student looks forward to – graduation. In order to prevent the spread of the virus, large gatherings such as concerts and meetings have been canceled indefinitely, and commencement has been no exception. 

Howard University announced in an email early March that commencement would be canceled “to avoid the potential for additional virus spread which would be problematic.” However, now a new statement released on Howard’s website has revealed that, “We will also announce new plans for Commencement, in a future communication, based upon input from students, faculty, and medical experts.” 

What these “new plans” entail has left many graduating seniors wary of what’s to come.

“My thoughts are that this is unprecedented. While I am disappointed by not having the traditional Howard graduation experience, I understand that there was no way for the University to prepare or have a proactive response to the school closure and transition to online courses,” said senior legal communications major Aerial Adams.

Adams also expressed great sympathy for students who are attempting to work online without the resources they had before, especially those in her class. 

“I really don’t want anyone else in HU20 to lose the opportunity to graduate. It’s been a long tiring road for us and at this point, I just want us all to make it,” Adams said.