COVID-19’s Lasting Effects on Campus Communities

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BY ABBY MAKAY abby.makay@go.mnstate.edu

Confined to the walls of their homes and offices, educational professionals have taken it upon themselves to single-handedly change each of their courses to completely online-based classes. Perhaps this sudden pivot in higher education is an overdue change or even a social experiment against our will with unforeseen outcomes. Only time will tell, and only educated guesses are offered in regard to the world’s foggy future. 

There is much talk of the drastic changes taking place in the United States, but some students studying abroad have lost their chances at education for the entire semester. Tessa Hartl was in the midst of her fifth year at NDSU and had just arrived in Tier, Germany on March 12 to study abroad. She hadn’t arrived even 24 hours before the spreading of a highly contagious virus threatened her education. 

After hearing word of this she said, “They’re going to have to take this trip from my cold, dead hands.” 

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NDSU student Tessa Hartl

Unfortunately, Hartl’s program was shut down the first day, and she was directed to come home immediately. Upon arriving home, she noticed a stark difference between the two countries in their preparation for the impending pandemic. 

“Germany had things shutting down so quickly,” she said before leaving. Stepping off the plane in Fargo, an airport assistant took her temperature, and Hartl was free to go without the bat of an eye. 

This was a simple example that, “the U.S. had weeks to prepare and didn’t take the correct precautions,” Hartl said. 

After the complete switch to online classes, determining essential businesses,  quarantining and rapid decline in toilet paper supply, there ought to be some impending change in society.  

“Not as much as (there) should (be),” Hartl said. “I would like to think that this is exposing a lot of flaws in our healthcare system, but I don’t think anything is going to change at all.” 

Despite shaking the ground dozens of systems were built upon, Hartl said COVID-19 “refined the experience” of a worst-case scenario only a crippling anxious mind could conjure. 

Lee Vigilant, professor of sociology at MSUM, said the coronavirus will alter how universities prepare for crises in the future. 

“Our current response to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, will mark a sea change to how we prepare for the next infectious disease threat,” Vigilant stated. “As educators, we will have to plan to teach online at a moment’s notice. COVID-19 is the precedent that we will use for responding to the next anomic disruption.” 

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Professor Lee Vigilant

In similar agreement, Chris Walker, an assistant professor in the School of Communication and Journalism at MSUM, said, “I think it would be nice for this to impact us as people … I’m not counting on any permanent changes for anything. Like any soft metal, it will bend back slowly.” 

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Professor Chris Walker

Unlike anything experienced in modern history, professors and students have had to adjust at the drop of a dime. Although this may not change anything long-term, and may as well be just another event preparing itself to be written in our history books, there is much to learn from experiences such as this. 

In a calm demeanor, Vigilant said, “We will go back to living our lives as we did before, because that is what we always do.” 

Our planet has survived the most difficult hardships known to humanity. COVID-19 is simply another natural experience the earth has to offer. 

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