Earlier in March, before I began my journey home, I went for a walk around the campus of Adrian College. It was five days after the school announced that they would be closing face to face classes and transitioning to online learning in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
It was a ghost town.
All academic buildings were dark with all classrooms locked. Parking lots were left bare after throngs of students made their way home to self-isolate for the foreseeable future. Any students that were left on campus secluded themselves in their rooms. There was no normal interaction between peers and faculty, or even members of the same dorm complex talking to each other. What used to be a thriving, bustling center hosting an outgoing community is now a hollow version of itself.
The usual spring events that both students and faculty look forward to are now absent. The Spring Concert, which was scheduled to host Hunter Hayes and B.O.B., has been cancelled. Ribbons of Excellence Day, cancelled. The State of the College address, cancelled. All spring and remaining winter sporting events, cancelled. The pandemic of COVID-19 has caused social gathering to be on the verge of being taboo. We are encouraged to practice social distancing, staying at least six feet away from anyone that is not immediate family. We are encouraged not to commune with our peers in what is supposed to be the best years of our lives. Instead of attending physical classes, the majority of Adrian students are now forced into uncharted territory and overwhelming uncertainty as the semester and finals week approach.
These changes have hit two groups on campus especially hard: student athletes and the Class of 2020. With the NCAA postponing or outright cancelling winter and spring sport seasons in response to the Coronavirus, it is leaving Adrian athletes with a sense of loss. They couldn’t have predicted that last week’s game could have been the last they have ever played, or never receive closure on what playoff run or end of season tournament could have brought.
For seniors, the uncertainty stretches to one of the most pivotal moments of a young person’s life: commencement. A time of celebration of the past four years of hard work and commitment. Where President Docking hands you your degree and shakes your hand while you look out into the crowd and see your smiling peers, advisors, and family congratulate you on an amazing accomplishment. That gleaming moment now might not happen. With the Coronavirus spreading the world faster than it can even track the number of those infected, it’s hard to imagine that commencement will occur for the Class of 2020. For those seniors that are currently reading this, I am sorry. I am sorry that one of the most gratifying experiences of your life might not come to fruition. I am sorry to the athletes whose seasons were cut short. I am sorry to the other underclassmen who feel overwhelmed by all of these changes. You are not alone. I’m in the same boat with you.
However, when I was taking my walk around campus, the few students and faculty I did see seemed to be more outgoing and selfless than I have ever seen before. Students whom I’ve never met before were giving me words of encouragement. Faculty were giving words of comfort to their students who were feeling overwhelmed by sudden changes. Even when we’re being forced to stay apart, this campus has still somehow found a closer way to come together.
While we all may have gone our separate ways earlier than expected and are not sure how to handle what comes next, we still have that community that Adrian College thrives on. We can still help one another, work together, and accomplish great things in these troubling times.
I would like to close by saying this: to all students, whether you’re an athlete, a business major, an art major, or athletic training, we will get through this together. Help one another during this crisis. Stay safe, we will all be back together on campus again soon.