OSWEGO — College students ordinarily might be relieved to finish their midterms on a Thursday before spring break but with traditional classes suspended after next week’s vacation, SUNY Oswego students will be faced with a challenge once their tests are finished: stay on campus with limited auxiliary services, or move home and finish their online classes from there.
Hurried and harried students rushed from residences to classrooms and back again, taking exams and rolling suitcases across the college’s campus Thursday morning.
The decision is uniquely difficult for members of the Class of 2020, as they try to balance the logistics and emotional toll of the news.
“I feel really bad for my parents because they wanted to see me walk (at graduation),” said senior economics major Hannah Emigh. If the rest of the semester is in an online format, she reasoned, it’s unlikely an in-person ceremony will occur.
“If it’s going to be online, who is going to watch that?” Emigh said. “This ruins my entire senior year.”
Students speaking to The Palladium-Times on Thursday expressed concern and worry about how the switch to online classes will affect not only the rest of this semester, but the remainder of their college careers.
Tucker Pierce, a sophomore education major, said he’s worried that there will be a “massive drop in overall student GPA,” because of the communication challenges of online learning.
“Some of my classes are 115, 120 students,” Pierce said. “Trying to get all that data to students in an online format is going to be super difficult.”
Students who live off campus with semester-long leases are now also finding themselves stuck in the predicament of having to choose between staying in Oswego apart from their families and hometowns, or paying rent for a vacant bedroom.
The transition will present a struggle for professors as well.
Ranjit Dighe, an economics professor at SUNY Oswego, has never taught online before and said he’s resisted several offers to do so in the past, preferring and enjoying the face-to-face interaction with students.
“I think SUNY Oswego is going to weather this better than some campuses,” Dighe said, citing that the college’s success so far in establishing communities for online learning.
Several members of the SUNY Oswego staff and faculty who asked remain unidentified told The Palladium-Times said they were in the dark as much as their students; Wednesday’s announcement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo directing SUNY and CUNY schools to begin to plan for a move to an all-distance learning model came as a surprise to many.
Sophomore Julian Drew is an infielder on the Lakers varsity baseball team and said two of his senior teammates were in tears after practice Wednesday over the possibility of having their final season cancelled. Drew said his team is supposed to meet with its coaching staff Thursday to receive news about the season’s status.
“Oh my god, it’d be crazy, I’d be heartbroken honestly,” Drew said on his feelings on the possibility of the season being cancelled. “It just feels like one big dream, like an out of body experience. Everything is just happening too fast.”
Drew said he is not angry over the precautions being taken by the school and athletic organizations and recognizes that it is for people’s safety.
As schools across the country prepare for a shift similar to that that SUNY Oswego is experiencing, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, held a press conference with colleagues Cory Booker, D-NJ and Kamala Harris, D-CA, to announce that an economic relief bill is in front of the House of Representative that would give two weeks of paid sick leave to those affected by coronavirus.
Harris said two thirds of low-income workers are not given sufficient paid leave, and that may force them to go to work even if they feel sick, leading to further spread of the virus.
“Here’s the bottom line: paid sick leave will save lives, paid sick leave will keep communities safer,” Harris said.
Gillibrand said she expects the House of Represntatives to pass the bill soon and for the Senate to hold a vote on it in the next few days.