Students and faculty react to campus shutdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic


Jeff Helsel

A sign on the Cal U Convocation Center advises all to “Stay Well” as the University prepares to shut down the campus and transition to remote operations in response to the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday, March 22, 2020.

Hannah Wyman, News Editor

On March 16,  President Geraldine M. Jones announced that Cal U would be finishing the remainder of the spring semester online and through distance learning due to the spread of COVID-19, a potentially serious respiratory disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  This announcement came only five days after President Jones notified students, faculty and staff that spring break would be extended by two weeks.  

Currently, Cal U’s campus and all campus activities have been put on pause as Gov. Tom Wolf ordered that all “non-life sustaining” businesses in the state, which includes colleges and universities close by March 19. 

According to Christine Kindl, vice president for communications and marketing, the move to online/distance learning is a good fit for the campus community because not only does Cal U boast 2,000 global online students, many other students have taken at least a few classes online already. 

Carol Bocetti, a professor in the Department of Biological and Environmental Science said that she understands why the PASSHE system and university administration chose to move online.  

It was a necessary step to flatten the curve of COVID-19 infection rate,” said Bocetti. “I think it was handled as efficiently as possiblefirst following CDC advice for two weeks, then following advice for full semester duration. Decisions were based on science and expert opinionI don’t think we can ask for more than that. 

Some, like senior sports management major Jacob Arnold, wished the university had waited to send one email containing everything students needed to know instead of sending multiple emails in one week that Arnold said he felt left people with more questions than answers. 

“I also was annoyed because I would receive emails from the people who run Vulcan Village on top of the emails from the university saying the same thing so they should have just worked together, said Arnold. 

Freshman computer science major Danny Rodgers said not only has his soccer season been cut short, but he also anticipates many struggles with finishing the semester online.  

“I am a person who likes learning in person with someone speaking directly to me, and not having that option may be a struggle,” said Rodgers. “My spring season was canceled for soccer so there is no athletic portion of my college career for this semester. It has made academics harder as homework over break has been more difficult due to it requiring self-teaching methods. 

Finishing classes online is only one aspect of the campus shutdown. Like Rodgers, Arnold said that the aspect he is most upset about missing is his extracurriculars, specifically his senior season on the ultimate frisbee team.  

Arnold said that over the last four years, the team had become like a second family. He had put a lot of work in teaching other members, planning events, and learning more about the game itself.  

“Missing out on my last season to see all the work and accomplishments that my teammates had made over my four years was pretty upsetting, in my opinion, this is the best the team has been since I had gotten here in 2016,” said Arnold. “Everything happens for a reason, so I am doing my best to enjoy my extended time off from playing for the first time since 2015... I wouldn’t trade the experiences that I had with the team here for anything. 

Bocetti also said many of her extracurricular activities and professional projects have been severely affectedThe Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society, which Bocetti advises, had to postpone their annual Outdoor Bash, a major fundraiser for the club 

Without it, we will not be able to support the vast array of professional development activities that we usually do,” said Bocetti. We also had to cancel many of those activities for the rest of the spring semester. We do plan to hold the Outdoor Bash in the fall on Saturday, September 12, if the virus is no longer an issue. 

Senior English journalism major Angela D’Amato said that the campus shutdown has also majorly affected life for her. D’Amato said she “won’t get to experience a senior luncheon, senior activities within my sorority or even experience graduation.” 

This affected my senior year because I’m going to miss out on so much that I would be doing as a senior and now everything got ripped away quickly,” said D’Amato. I know its difficult for us to understand but the university did what they needed to do. I wish they waited to canceled graduation right away but I know they are trying to plan something for us seniors so we don’t miss that experience. 

According to Kindl, Cal U continues to explore ideas for commencement as they know how much that special recognition means to seniors.  

The public health situation is changing every day, so it’s hard to look too far into the future just yet,” said Kindl. “We definitely will find a way to celebrate their achievement.”  

In the meantime, Kindl said that the university is focused on the safety of its students and employees as the full class schedule relaunches.  

While students are adapting to learning online, many professors have been working diligently over the past few weeks to prepare for online delivery of their classes. Self-described as “not a technically savvy person,” Bocetti said she believes she will be able to deliver nearly all the content she originally promised her students.   

She also said that she hopes she will do a good job teaching and advising her students and hopes that “students understand that I’m doing my best, and I’m committed to delivering the material I promised at the start of the semester.” 

I love this work, and I am committed to doing the best I can, but I know it won’t be as good as courses that were originally designed to be online,” said Bocetti. I just don’t have the time or the expertise to develop a fullblown online course. Hopefully, I get better at all this as the semester progresses.” 

Despite all these obstacles, the Cal U community seems to have risen to the challenge and will continue to face any problems headon 

I feel like the administration is doing a pretty good job,” said Bocetti.  The faculty and staff from the entire campus have been remarkable, and I feel very supported. 

As for the future, Kindl said she hopes students will continue to text their friends, video-chat and keep in touch while we all “stay calm, stay safe and stay home,” as the Health Department advises. 

“Not being able to see friends during quarantine really sucks but at least I can still call and text them every day to see how they are doing with all the craziness that is happening around us,” said Arnold. “Missing out on the last couple of months to hang out during my college career is the most upsetting part of the whole situation that is going on.” 

I’ve been very proud of how our students and employees are helping one another during this very stressful time,” said Kindl. Social distancing is so very important, even for young people, but we are lucky to live in an age when we have the tools to stay connected while we’re apart.