This is a troubling time for everyone in our community. As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Massachusetts rises to 218, according to The Boston Globe, panic continues to spread. It is difficult to simultaneously cope with these feelings of nervousness and the upheaval of our daily routines, as businesses, schools, and shops close to prepare to weather this storm.
It is also a time of many, many questions without answers. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is much confusion surrounding Lesley University’s decision to, along with many other colleges nationwide, extend spring break and move courses online starting Monday, March 23.
For students and faculty alike, there will be unique challenges to face this coming Monday. Students will have to secure Internet and e-book access from home. They will have to remain motivated, as success in online classes will now be solely determined by a student’s sense of accountability. Professors will not be around to remind them of due dates and deadlines in-person. Students with diverse learning styles will also be forced to adapt very quickly to this new format.
Many professors are venturing into virtual teaching for the first time. How will their courses be carried out effectively? Can certain assignments still be completed as planned online? What about tests and presentations? How can they keep students engaged? Those answers will be determined in the coming days, as online classes begin Monday, March 23.
Life beyond the classroom has also been disrupted. Students who were employed in on-campus jobs at Lesley have now found themselves without a source of income. With the university shut down, many students will be without pay for the foreseeable future. It remains to be seen if departments will allow students to work remotely so they can continue earning a paycheck.
Residential students’ dorms now sit empty in Cambridge. With students being prohibited from living on-campus due to COVID-19, they are not utilizing the meal plans and room and board that they paid for.
According to the Lesley website, “The university is actively working on an equitable arrangement. At the moment we anticipate providing refunds for the pro-rata portion of residential students’ room and board payment, accounting for the time the student is away. Since it is not yet known how long residential students will be away from campus, the refunds will be determined after the semester ends.”
While it is great to see Lesley’s commitment to refunding their residential students, those refunds are still at least two months away. Coupled with the termination of student employment for the time being, this is a huge financial blow to those who are paying for their own education. While students are out of work, these refunds, if received earlier than the end of the semester, would be extremely beneficial.
Those who attended the Counseling Center regularly have had all upcoming appointments cancelled. Some students are not able to afford therapy and rely on the Counseling Center’s free services. The Center “currently [does] not have an alternative to in-person services,” leaving students without mental healthcare during this anxiety-inducing time.
For students in internships, working in their chosen field just got more complicated. According to the Lesley website, all internships are suspended until Friday, March 27. Students are encouraged to reach out to their supervisors and begin to discuss new methods for completing their work. It is unclear how the university will address students who may not be able to reach their required number of internship hours, given the circumstances.
While the road up ahead seems frightening, we can brave this new, uncharted territory together as a Lesley community. Continue washing your hands and checking in on your family members and friends as much as possible. Though the thought of adapting to an entirely new college experience is intimidating, we will get through this together. You are not alone in your apprehension.
There are people here to support you at Lesley if you have questions or concerns. Students are encouraged to reach out to Nathaniel Mays, Dean of Students at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. Faculty should contact Margaret Everett, Provost at email@example.com, while staff should contact Michele Trifiro, Director of Campus Safety & Services at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay safe, stay home, and stay strong!