This semester has been far from normal and COVID-19 has been a constant threat looming across campus. Still, students have managed to stay on Fairfield University’s campus for classes for the entire semester, far surpassing other universities in the country, who had to send their students home within the first few weeks of reopening.

Although students have been able to stay on campus due to the relatively low numbers of COVID-19 cases at Fairfield, many of them still struggled this semester and faced new and completely unexpected challenges.

Despite the expectation that all classes would be in person, Brianna VanDermark ‘22 has barely attended any classes that weren’t virtual.

“I think I’ve only attended a class in person five or six times this entire year,” she said. “I have been completely online since the first week of October. After the first outbreak on campus, my professors decided it would be safer to have completely online classes.”

VanDermark also noticed that students aren’t the only ones struggling this semester. Her professors also seem to be under a lot of stress due to online classes and restructuring syllabi to correspond with the COVID-19 guidelines.

“It’s more of a process with everything being online. I do think our professors are also overwhelmed,” VanDermark said. “I have noticed, in three of my classes, my professors have been very slow with grading. For one of my classes, I have submitted seven assignments and have still not received any grades, which is frustrating. I also submitted a midterm for another class without having any grades or feedback for prior assignments.”

Overall, VanDermark has had a frustrating semester and echoes the sentiments of many other students on campus.

“I think the combination of completing all classes online from my dorm and not receiving much feedback from my professors has made this semester challenging,” VanDermark said.

Michael Pepe ‘22 shares in VanDermark’s frustration with online classes.

“This semester has been difficult because I learn better in the classroom than sitting in my room staring at a screen, not knowing when to talk,” he said.  

Pepe has also struggled with the new social limitations placed on students due to the spread of the virus on campus.

“It’s also hard to see my friends who live in other places, and I can’t meet anyone new,” he said.

However, to Pepe, the most difficult aspect of the semester was seeing other students not following COVID-19 guidelines.

“It’s extremely annoying seeing people not obeying COVID regulations,” Pepe said. “I don’t want to get sick because of other people being selfish and foolish. It creates this environment of paranoia and fear of people you don’t know.”

Todd Pelazza, director of the Department of Public Safety, recommends that students call DPS when they see others out of line and not following the University guidelines.

According to a previous article published by The Mirror, Pelazza said that anonymous tips are sent to DPS via the LiveSafe app “15 to 20 times a week.” However, these tips likely don’t account for a majority of COVID-19 guideline violations happening all over campus. 

Matthew Little ‘22 is surprised by how smoothly the semester has progressed, but still notes problems, namely the COVID-19 testing on campus.

“Overall, the semester progressed better than I expected,” he said. “Though, I worry about our testing procedure. Wesleyan tests all of its students twice per week, and Fairfield only tested me twice through the whole semester.”

Little’s concern is understandable, since other schools, including Wesleyan University, have been consistently testing the entire student population each week for COVID-19 infection, while Fairfield’s testing has only been from a small, randomized selection of the student population, and the randomized testing doesn’t include faculty or staff. According to National Public Radio, most colleges in the country aren’t consistently testing their students, or are randomly selecting students for testing, like Fairfield,

While testing is offered consistently at the Health Center for free, it is not required. 

Overall, the Fall 2020 semester has been difficult for every student. Online academics have proven successful, but they pose a challenge for many students who struggle to learn without being in an actual classroom. 

Despite all of the unprecedented adversity faced by students, both on and off campus, Fairfield has managed to remain open and fully functioning with a low infection rate, only ranging between 0.5 and two percent of the student population–a feat compared to other schools like the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill which was forced to move all classes online within just a few weeks of reopening this summer with a 13.6 percent infection rate among students. 

As a whole, Stags have managed to survive the semester and stick it out on campus until the end, despite all of the challenges that came their way.

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