Anxiety quickly fell over college campuses everywhere as the confirmed cases of the Coronavirus began to skyrocket across the world. As a result, colleges across the country responded to the disease’s outbreak by forcing students to vacate their residential spaces and to continue the remainder of the semester through online classes. Students across the nation were displaced and severely affected from the decisions made by their institutions.
The students of the Atlanta University Center Consortium in particular immediately stormed to social media to express their concerns in regards to the news that they received. The students of the AUC were first notified that their spring break was extended in order to combat the spread of the coronavirus. While a high population of the students rejoiced in the name of extra leisure time, the emails following immediately after turned their spring break into a disaster. Students who attend Spelman College, Morehouse College, and Clark Atlanta University were originally told on March 16th to use their extended spring break to evacuate their residence halls along with their belongings by March 21st. That left students under a week to completely pack their things, meanwhile most students of these institutions were travelling abroad during this time.
To make matters worse, Morehouse College later made the decision to expedite the move out process in fear of the coronavirus rapid spreading. On Monday night, Morehouse College updated their students that they had 48 hours to evacuate the campus and check out by Wednesday at 12 PM. “I went into a panic. I never thought it would get this bad. I never thought the virus would have so much of an effect that I would be kicked out of my dorm with less than 48hr notice. I was not able to bring all of my things home. Now I do not know when I will be able to go back and retrieve my car and the rest of my belongings.” Ross Gordon, a student of Morehouse College, passionately expressed his opinions on the college’s resolution. On the topic of how well the College is responding to the transition of online classes, Gordon explains, “We are in 2020, yet still have multiple teachers that do not know how to use Blackboard (The college’s online grading tool), or choose not to. That to me is unacceptable. Teachers should have been instructed on how to use everything in the Morehouse portal at their disposal so when an incident happens and forces online instruction it is an almost seamless transition on their end.” Gordon continues to express his frustrations with the administration’s sudden decisions by stating, ‘The school should have communicated that the school has a relief fund and other resources to help students who need to be moved off campus, or do not have viable resources at home to continue with online classes. It was not well advertised at all that there was money available to help students with this major transition.”
Just a few yards away, students of Spelman College had different experiences. Amaris Buford, a Sophomore attending Spelman College testifies, “Once Spelman announced that we were moving to remote classes, I was distraught. I do not have a laptop, so I did not know how I was going to successfully finish the semester. Luckily, Spelman was giving away 16 Surface Pro tablets, so I am now able to participate in class.” When asked about what her living conditions are, Buford explains, “I was granted an emergency stay at Spelman’s campus. I will be here until the semester concludes.” Although attending the same institution, a Senior at Spelman College has a different story. Jordan Nash says, “ COVID 19 has effectively cancelled the remainder of my senior year. Our graduation has been cancelled, our Founders Day, Senior Soirée, and all our other major events have been cancelled. I’m trying to not be negative, but it basically ruined the entire thing and took a lot of once and a lifetime experiences away.” When asked what she would have preferred that the College did differently, Nash stated, “All of this. I think Spelman in their need to try and do everything the “right” way forget that they are dealing with human beings with feelings, especially seniors. I feel like they’ve been super insensitive.” Nash’s prediction on the retention rate of Spelman College was, “I think a lot of people got thrown out of schools across the country who aren’t going to make it back sadly.”
Also in walking distance, Clark Atlanta University was the last of the institutions to notify their students of their settlement. “I think a lot of professors are overcompensating for classes being online and assigning more work than most students can handle. Especially with the internet being a luxury some people do not have. Also some people just don’t have the environment or at home support to focus.” Kayla Brown of Clark Atlanta University says. Brown continued to express her concerns in regard to the lack of financial assistance as she says, “My school had a relief fund that I attempted many times to get help from and never did. I had to borrow money from friends and get loans that I’m still paying back now.” Clark Atlanta University’s President has assured the students that refunds and reimbursements will be determined by a “student by student basis.” Brown completes her statements by saying, “I’ve never been so confused with the motions in my life, but I give all that stress to God and hope that he sees us out of this.”
As of now, the institutions have made the official decision in the way that the grading scale will continue. The students at the colleges can choose whether they would like to continue their semester on a regular A-F grading scale, or have the option to use a Pass or Fail grading scale. The difference between the two methods is this: Pass or Fail grading scale will not permit for a GPA to be weighed against them whereas the A-F scale will allow their final grades to affect their GPAs. Many students argue that it is not fair for all students to have a scale where their grades will be affected due to the unforeseen circumstances. Others argue that they need their GPA to increase because of their personal reasons. As a healthy compromise, both colleges allowed their students the option to choose once they have received their final grades at the end of the semester.
Although students’ main concerns were in regards to the expedited evacuation, online grading systems, tuition refunds and reimbursements: The Coronavirus affected staff members as well. “Getting another job really isn’t an option right now and getting unemployment isn’t as easy as they make it on the news” Jordan Houston, a staff member at Crogman’s Campus Eatery states. In some cases, some are both students and staff members. D’Andre Graham, a Senior at Clark Atlanta University/ staff member at IT in OITC and Crogman Campus Eatery goes into depth about his inconveniences. “It was midterms so I couldn’t really work that week because I had to really study and try to pass my midterms. Then they extended spring break and I got laid off the next Monday. I had to dip into my work study funds, my rent funds just to get around and to get things for my house and my son.” Graham states, “I have to pray that my apartment lets me push my rent off just a bit with no charge because this next work study check won’t cut it.” Thankfully enough for Graham, he is still on track to graduate.
COVID-19 has affected millions of people across the country in more ways than just one. In this case, these are the stories of only a handful of students within the AUC. Graduations have been postponed, students were homeless, and parents have lost their jobs in attempts to feed their children. The world is currently living in a pandemic that has destroyed lives and opportunities within the matter of a few months. Now is the time to work together.
Will you help flatten the curve?