The College Experience is Gone: What Now?
The college experience is gone. The administration has adapted, now students need to do the same.
Furman students’ return to campus was ill-fated from the start, though not because the administration’s plans were erroneous, the students unwilling, or the virus too aggressive. Since a drastic restriction of campus life was inherent in any university return, mass disillusion with social life this fall was inevitable. Though classroom education can largely adapt to the safety precautions of the COVID era, parties and gatherings cannot. And truly, those events are what many college students care about. Coronavirus has proven a long-suspected theory—students primarily attend college for the experience, not the education. Academics are part of the incentive, but they have been and continue to be secondary to the “college experience.”
Therefore, no matter what measures were taken by Furman’s administration to ensure a successful fall, students were always going to be unhappy. The pandemic hindered the activities most coveted on campus, and the aspect of the college experience that we begrudgingly accept as part of our time at school, academics, is all that remains.
To that end, students need to stop blaming Furman for their inability to solve an unsolvable crisis—instead, we need to reflect and restructure our collegiate priorities, if only temporarily.
This has been a semester of complaints. A lot has changed on Furman’s campus, and students, including myself, have nitpicked every adjustment and scrutinized each policy. We have complained about a lack of activities. We have complained about the food. We have complained about PAC restrictions, library hours and even the legitimacy of “visitors only” parking spaces.
It makes sense that students are complaining about these changes of campus life. The amenities represent small parts of the larger reason we attend four-year residential college in the first place. If we were in it purely for educational reasons, we might have foregone the staggering price tag of a four-year liberal arts college and opted for less expensive yet comparable alternatives.
A recent student survey conducted by The Paladin prove as much: most students report that online learning is not worth the same as in-person learning. Yet the pervasive campus rhetoric surrounding increased workloads and difficult classes indicated that these complaints likely stem not from a drastic decrease in classroom quality but rather a lack of “extras,” a drought of distractions.
In short, we chose Furman, largely because it provides, or rather used to provide, what those other options did not: parties, gathering events, D1 sports, Greek Life, restaurant-like dining and the opportunity to spend four years hidden from real life inside a collegiate bubble. These experiences are what many of us are truly attending college for.
This year, those things have been stripped away. Though COVID is the ultimate transgressor, it is easy to blame the administration for these changes. After all, they are the body directly implementing the rules that we so detest. However, students should temper their emotions and remember this is not what the administration wanted. Colleges are businesses, and thus wish for nothing more than to satisfy their customers.
Now, they physically cannot do this. They cannot provide the sorts of events and luxuries that we demand became those events are now dangerous. Instead, the administration has prioritized a different, and in students' eyes less important, agenda this fall—learning. Therefore, the college experience died so academic pursuits could continue...a causality students have refused to accept.
Social life is not coming back this year, at least not in any real capacity. Knowing that, we are going to be perpetually unhappy if we keep expecting it to return. Yes, one of our main purposes for attending Furman has undoubtedly vanished before our eyes, and we have a right to grieve for it—up to a point.
If we would like to spend the remainder of our semester in a happier state of mind, we must learn to tolerate the restrains from the administration. We need to suck it up, move on and focus on what we can—there are positives in any situation, regardless of circumstances.
So yes, the college experience is temporarily gone, but we can adjust, as long as we make the conscious decision to do so.