Angles: Should Augustana students have returned to campus?

Yes, students need in-person interaction

Alayna Jones

Last spring, Augustana students were sent home early to finish the school year online because the pandemic was getting too dangerous for them to stay on campus. Now, returning and new students are coming back to campus, not only to attempt classes in person, but also for the new school year ahead of us.

I’ve only been on campus for a week or two, but I am so glad to be here instead of doing my first semester of college online. I cherish the interactions between students, peers and professors when we are all together on campus. 

Young adults living on their own, developing their responsibility and confidence, discovering who they are and becoming independent is part of the progress of life.

It’s easy to use campus  services and resources you need for your future career. Joining a few clubs or groups that can influence the path you pursue after graduating or taking on internships or mock interviews to get a grasp of what the workforce will bring are great experiences. These tools are easier to use when the student body is together.

Quarantine and being confined at home was certainly new for everyone and brought disruption to what we call the “normal world.” 

Mental Health and the Covid-19 Pandemic by Betty Pfefferbaum and Carol S. North discusses what this pandemic has brought to American society. The article talks about how people react to stay-at-home-orders, isolation and quarantine in their own ways. 

A review of psychological tests on quarantined people and health care workers revealed the emotional outcomes of stress, depression, irritability, insomnia, fear, confusion and more. 

With certain states trying to re-open from their stay-at-home orders and lower the level of infected cases, everyone needs to be taking their own responsibility in keeping themselves and everyone else safe. Check in with each other and be a reassuring presence during this strange time.

In-person learning will always be beneficial for the student and the professor. It can be more interactive and help students retain more information and get a better understanding of assignments. For professors, teaching in front of students helps build connections and understanding of each other. 

Online learning can be difficult to get through, because Augustana has international and out-of-state students. Teaching a class through a computer can be complicated because the professor can’t get the same connection or understanding they would get in person. Students are more distracted and can become confused or frustrated about problems that could be more easily resolved in person. 

While students return to campus and say ‘hello’ to new and old friends, we have to remind ourselves of the responsibility to wear masks over our noses and mouths, keep a safe distance and attend to personal hygiene. It’s all for the better so we aren’t sent home and can return to what we call normal.

No, there’s still too much uncertainty

Gage Hoffman

I believe that tackling the idea of whether or not schools should be in person is an impossible task with the overwhelming uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic presents. That said, if I were to take a stance on whether we should be in person or online, I would have to side with the latter.

There are three reasons why I believe it would be best to be online instead of in person.

To start, I am not an epidemiologist, and I don’t believe any of my classmates are, but I can’t believe that the spread of the virus will be down to zero percent regardless of how many precautions we take. So long as we are near one another, it is impossible to not spread the virus. It is that uncertainty that scares me. 

I worked at a coffee shop this summer where masks were not required for customers, and, in my experience, I saw people wearing masks incorrectly, wearing none at all or complaining to me about wearing one. I am worried about showing up to a class and seeing people without masks.

Here’s the thing: No matter how many precautions we take, there will still be risk.

The second reason comes down to mental health and ability to pay attention during class. I have not yet experienced enough time in the classroom this year to discover how this will truly affect people. I find myself genuinely worried about going to class, and it can be troublesome to pay attention when I am there. I find it very easy to learn online, but I don’t want to dismiss anyone who prefers to learn in person. There are many people who struggled with last semester’s online classes, and I certainly don’t want that to repeat itself.

That being said, the third reason that I would want to have college online is because we don’t know how this year will turn out. I don’t look forward to the shaky shift from in-person to online classes, if this semester comes to that. I am certain that all professors have prepared for their classes to go online, but I don’t believe all students (definitely including myself) are mentally prepared for this shift.

Overall, I simply think it’s impossible to take a side on this. It’s just a messy situation that we have to get through together. I’m certain we would all prefer the virus to be done so we could be with our friends and loved ones in close proximity without masks. But for now, it’s important that we band together and take this virus very seriously. Zoom your friends, take up some (healthy) hobbies, organize your room again and do everything in your power to keep physical distance.

Lastly, if you stop by my coffee shop, the mask goes over your nose.

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