COVID Changed Campus Culture -- Can We Change it Back?
We’re all mad about the things we have lost, yet we’re choosing to lose the things that remain.
Relationships aren’t cancelled. Laughs, though muffled by masks, don’t ring unheard. Opportunities haven’t been eradicated. However it is up to us to realize these small wins still remain.
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The spring break of 2020 will never be forgotten. But unfortunately, the enduring memory of that period is not because of wild parties in Cancun or amazing views in Iceland. Instead, it will be remembered for when students’ life at Furman and across the nation changed dramatically.
Suddenly, students had to adapt their life on-campus to a completely new “normal” of life at home. Much was lost at this time; and students surely had much to mourn. We grieved for the semester we had lost, the memories unmade, the trips untaken.
This fall, thanks to many last-minute changes and sacrifices by both the Furman administration and students, the plan of an accelerated semester to finish on-campus activities by Thanksgiving was put into place. Optimistic for the future, students were able to return to campus in phases. Little did returning individuals know that the “simple” changes put in place due to COVID would have dramatic effects on the culture at Furman.
It seems fair to say that relationships made at Furman are an integral part of the overall experience on campus. In a normal year, Furman professors and students often get lunch together, large groups of students crowd apartments in North Village and adventures downtown or off to the mountains are norms. Now, the excessive prevention of large groups has severely altered this beloved Furman dynamic.
Once, five students could cram into one table together. Now, they have to be fractured into two socially-distant tables. Professors who walked into classes with a bright “Good morning!” are now met with silence and eyes peering from beneath masks. Though typical class discussion has remained thoughtful and intense, the typical light banter at the beginning and end of classes has dwindled. Mentally drained students and professors have no time or energy to waste on nonsense.
College is supposed to be the best time of your life. Yet between the stress of the pandemic, politics, and academics, that sentiment, to many, has become an almost laughable idea. However, we have the power to shift Furman’s current, largely negative culture — we have the power to redefine our campus.
Instead of focusing on all of our losses, we must instead focus on what remains. Miss going to some of your favorite grub-spots? Well, many restaurants have moved to take-out only and would greatly appreciate a to-go order from Furman students. Take-out dining still allows for an adventure or two, all the while supporting the area we call home for a majority of the year.
Yearn for social gatherings? With campus entering this new yellow phase, we now have new guidelines. Indoor and outdoor organized events may now include up to 30 individuals or a maximum capacity of the event space, meaning students may informally gather outdoors in groups of 30 or fewer so long as they remain physically distanced and wear masks.
If students wish to avoid transitioning to a remote semester, we must be responsible — while there may frustrating rules in place, there is no limit on student creativity. Spend time outside on days with nicer weather. Find a place outside to study or eat. Lake walks are a simple (and socially distant) way to air grievances and triumphs with those who are not in pods.
We must stop reminiscing on all we have lost. Doing so will only breed a culture of discontent on campus. Small activities, small wins, small laughs — these will all bring a sense of normalcy to the Furman we know and love.