By 5 p.m. today, UNC Charlotte’s campus will officially be empty of students, and nobody knows when they’ll be coming back.
Following Tuesday’s order that residence halls be vacated by Friday afternoon, students have been lugging their things up and down dorm-room staircases throughout the week, and come Monday, classes will resume online with students spread throughout the country.
As for myself, working was my only reason for staying in North Carolina instead of high-tailing it back to my hometown of Bowie, Maryland. Soon enough, both of my jobs shut down operations completely, and on Tuesday morning, I caved to my mother’s demands and made the six-hour drive north so I wouldn’t have to face this pandemic alone.
Before I left, I spoke with some professors and fellow classmates about what Tuesday’s order means for them. While eliminating face-to-face class instruction is most certainly the right thing to do, it has caused much concern among students who are frustrated with how the forced move will impact their grades and relationships with professors.
“It’s hard being an Engineering major and completing classes online,” said Stephanie Rodriguez, a senior. “My labs are simulations so it’s confusing. If I have a question, it’s not like I can get face-to-face help. I was already struggling with juggling my classes in person, but now I have to work even harder since my teachers don’t want us to fall behind, even in the midst of this pandemic.”
On their end, some professors are worried students won’t be able to keep up with the curriculum given the choice to study online. Others I spoke with believe using online chat rooms and video streaming will not allow them to teach their classes as intended.
“Moving my class online will be very difficult considering it is based on discussion,” said one professor who asked not to be named. “If we need to talk and share with one another, students will feel less motivated on a screen.”
Some students had concerns that go beyond the classroom. Though no UNC Charlotte students or professors had tested positive for COVID-19 by Friday, there’s also been minimal testing. Rodriguez worried about the implications of sending thousands of students back to their hometowns without truly knowing whether any have been exposed.
“My grandmother has recently moved in with us, so I’m afraid that going home will give her a higher risk of catching it,” she said. “I just received a new job and I still have to work, all while taking her to physical therapy.”
Some students have started an online petition calling on the university to give students the chance to Pass/Fail this semester due to the difficulties involved with involuntarily transitioning to online classes late in the semester. By Friday morning, more than 8,500 people had signed.
For many students, including myself, the transition to online learning has cause increased anxiety and stress. I have already been faced with awful connections in virtual classrooms and struggled with daunting analysis papers that I won’t be able to revise with my professor during office hours.
From an educational aspect, the road ahead looks tough, but public safety is the priority, and all we can do as a student population and society as a whole is hope to find a way through this sooner than later.