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After five months of pandemic life, SRU students were able to return to campus this past week as classes resumed on Monday. While fewer students are on campus and the majority of classes are virtual, this week marked the historical return of students to campus after the sudden campus shutdown in March.
This week also marked a historical time for colleges across the country. In the same week that SRU students began classes, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Notre Dame and Michigan State University have all suspended in-person classes. For UNC-Chapel Hill and Notre Dame, students were actively on campus and attending classes when administration announced those changes.
While SRU’s campus looks physically different this semester, this is the time to understand your own role as an SRU student during a pandemic. Whether you are actively visiting campus or completing coursework remotely, all of us play an important role in maintaining campus life during a socially distant semester and especially while students have access to on-campus resources.
First, remember to follow social distancing guidelines while in public, including in on-campus buildings. Wear a mask if you are physically and medically able to do so, and avoid large gatherings (more than 25 people for indoor gatherings and 40 people for outdoor events).
This information is not new. However, now that SRU has reopened in some capacity—and especially following the announcement of SRU’s first positive case—we must revisit these guidelines to ensure that we all avoid a cluster or outbreak of COVID-19 cases.
However, in reality, we must also recognize student accountability this semester must go deeper than these precautions.
We have all been through a collective trauma ever since the pandemic led to the sudden closure of our campus. Between the extension of our spring break back in March to the most recent decision to hold 80% of our classes online, we have all had to adjust to circumstances out of our control. Adjusting to these changes was certainly not easy, but now is the opportunity to recognize that we have some control over this semester through our own actions.
For this, we refer back to The Rocket’s work last fall. One of our earliest editorials last year explained how every member of the SRU community had the opportunity to make an impact in the fight to end the stigma around mental health.
These past few months have been difficult with sudden and drastic lifestyle changes, and now that we are returning to a largely virtual semester, we urge you to think of ways to check in with yourself and your friends regarding mental health. Attending events or even just checking up on peers gives you an opportunity to reflect on how you’re doing and how you can stay safe and connected during the pandemic.
Even if you’re new to SRU and are struggling to get involved, we encourage you to connect with CORE and the Student Engagement and Leadership office. With virtual events and remote involvement opportunities, there is a place for everyone to connect beyond their academics.
After all, this is the end of first week of the semester. It’s extremely easy to feel overwhelmed while planning your coursework this semester. You have plenty of time to get prepared and get your routine prepared. Take a step back, take a deep breath and recognize that you made it through a difficult end of the previous semester and will get through the fall semester.
Just like we said last year, everyone’s health and well-being matters, and we must absolutely remember this as we consider our own actions this semester. That being said, don’t hesitate to reach out to an on-campus resource, such as the counseling center, or contact a friend or professor.
For the past five months, SRU administration and leadership have worked to set the expectations and requirements for students of the fall semester. Now, it is up to us students to be accountable for our own actions not only to ensure everyone we interact with is safe, but also to show that even in socially distant times, we are all connected.
Let us be perfectly clear: all of our actions and decisions directly impact SRU’s operations, especially during this pandemic. The fate of this semester is in our hands.
One day, we will return to some type of normalcy in which we can make a full return to campus and visit friends and family freely without the need to social distance. However, until then, do your part to keep yourself and your friends and family safe, and make sure to check in with yourself.
We will get through this together.