On The Record: “We are...all in this together”
The Eagle shares how we’re all united as we continue through the coronavirus pandemic
I ended my column a few weeks back with this: “...We are among the students being told to move out of our on-campus housing and the ones who are losing jobs and internships, as companies can no longer support us. We are the students studying abroad being told to return home and the seniors finishing their last months on AU’s campus from their couches across the country. We feel how overwhelming this time is, and we take it to heart…”
Those words have been on my mind as we continue to navigate these challenging times. In The Eagle’s reporting over the last month, we’ve spoken with students, faculty, staff, administrators and numerous other members of the AU community. While doing so, we’ve heard their individual struggles, anxieties and fears.
When I started this column, I aimed to provide an additional level of transparency and accountability to our work. Although I feel that our staff has done a great job in these last weeks reporting on the various experiences across the University, I wanted to show that we are, in fact, all in this together.
I’ll share from my own experience first, dealing with the realities of isolation and uncertainty. As a graduating senior, I feel immense loss not having the opportunity to walk across the stage in Bender, or say goodbye to my peers and professors I’ve come to cherish. My anxieties about leaving school and entering an unstable job market seem insurmountable at times too.
I also worry about family and friends at home who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and mourn the few who have lost their lives. My fears can feel overwhelming at times, thinking of the people in my life who are on the front lines as essential workers every day keeping us safe and providing for us at home.
But, there are other times when I am able to stop and recognize what is going on right here at AU, and I appreciate the hard work our community is doing to provide a sense of normalcy during the chaos.
It is only fitting for American University students to continue to fight for justice and equity when they feel fellow classmates are not being accounted for. The Eagle has reported on multiple efforts spearheaded by students to address the academic, housing and financial needs of their classmates.
“Students are dealing with things that are taking precedence over classwork,” senior Eric Perless told The Eagle about his motivation to start a petition for the University to offer a pass/fail option.
Our administrators are listening and working to try to provide what they think is best. Dean for Undergraduate Education Jessica Waters met with students to consider another option for a universal pass, giving all students a pass on their transcripts because of the unprecedented and traumatic nature of these times.
“A one-size-fits-all solution does not provide student flexibility or ownership,” Waters said, defending the University’s earlier decision to offer students a choice of a pass/fail.
There is so much that goes into the planning and facilitating of all these efforts. It has been nothing short of miraculous to see individuals across the University working together during this time, especially the efforts of our professors and faculty members who were tasked with moving the rest of their syllabi into the digital space. They too are living in this distressing reality and manage to show up for us and continue to provide the education we are so desperately longing for right now.
The medical director of the Student Health Center, Dr. David Reitman, is another community member dealing with the effects of the coronavirus daily.
“For us as faculty and staff, we hate this,” Reitman said. “We would much rather have the students. We’re missing all the students and the buzz and the energy.”
It’s fair to say that there are very real pressures and triggers in the world around us, and just knowing that others are dealing with them too doesn’t necessarily make any of it less trying. I share all of this with you not to add to or take away from any of that, but to be able to paint a portrait of what the AU community is doing right now. We are all in this together, even though it can be hard to see at times.
One of my own professors told me earlier this week that there is another side of all of this, and we will make it there. We may not know when that will be or what it will look like, but we must continue to remind ourselves that it does exist.