WPU Reacts to Campus Shutdown

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The statue of Mr. William Peace on main lawn is wearing a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic

By Caitlin Richards

COVID-19 also known as coronavirus, is a respiratory disease that spreads from person-to-person, and has caused fear and worry. Schools have closed, parents have been put out of work and people have taken precautions to limit the mass spread of this pandemic.

William Peace University is one of the many universities that closed and cancelled all events as a precaution due to the coronavirus. WPU notified students to return to their permanent residences by March 16, but extended housing to students with special cases. All classes transitioned to online, which began on March 23. 

“The health and safety of our community are our first priority at the Office of Public Safety,” said Micheal John, Director of WPU’s Public Safety Office. “We’ll remain in operation 24-hours a day and work with President Ralph and his leadership team to ensure the safety of the students and staff who are on campus, as well as the protection of the University’s property.”

With the sudden closure of WPU, this also meant college seniors had to cut the last semester short, not being able to soak up their last college memories before going out into the “adult world.” Graduation has been postponed.

Deja Gainey, WPU senior and Student Body President, is emotional about the changes like many students, staff and faculty, but is embracing the efforts made by staff and faculty to make the transition easy.

“I’m really sad that everything on campus is closed now. Things just have not been the same for me since then. I’m a very active member of campus, so not being on campus took away that entire student involvement aspect of WPU,” said Gainey.

Although almost no one is on campus anymore, professors are still being supportive of students and providing as much assistance as necessary during this uncertain time.

“Thankfully, professors have made online classes easy to adjust to, but it is a completely different experience now. Hopefully, the Class of 2020 will still get to walk across the stage sometime this year,” Gainey said.

Not only are students having to adjust to this huge change, but faculty are also having to learn how to teach online, which is a big transition for all involved.

Assistant Professor of Communications and Simulation and Game Design, Justin Johnson, is one of the WPU professors who had to change various aspects of his curriculum in order to accommodate for the pressing circumstances that COVID-19 presented.

He has had to consider rearranging his SGD curriculum, including how he will deliver class material, facilitate communication with/between students, and modify assignments to fit into the online course blueprint.

Johnson said that one of the hardest parts about this transition to online courses is the variation in accessibility to sufficient technology among students. Previously, students who did not have access to higher-end hardware and/or software could use the SGD Lab in Pressly for their assignments. Now, assignments must be tailored in such a way that every student has the means to complete them, whether they have access to higher-end tech or not.

“The most difficult thing is thinking about the students and being sensitive to their individual situations. They rely on the SGD lab being open all the time with all the technology they need to learn. So I have to consider that when figuring out how to move forward,” said Johnson.

Johnson also gave advice to students struggling to find a way to cope with the new circumstances and mentions how it is important for students to be consistent and develop a routine.

“Stay in the present. Everything that will happen will happen. Try to focus on what you can control now: family, work, school, etc. Worrying about the future isn’t going to change anything,” said Johnson. “Everyone seems to be rallying and coming together because of the pandemic. I’m sure that whatever goals get affected by this crisis, there will be people to help you get back on track.”

Johnson expressed how important it is to focus on the things that are in your own control.

“Students: take care of your health and family first. Other educators out there: be empathetic to the students and understand they may not be able to make your class a priority or have proper technological resources,” said Johnson.

Before the hysteria in the United States, it is believed that the coronavirus started in Wuhan, China last year at a Chinese food market, before spreading at a fast rate to 70 countries, including the US.

According to The CDC, global efforts at this time are focused concurrently on lessening the spread and impact of this virus. The federal government is working closely with state, local, tribal, and territorial partners, as well as public health partners, to respond to this public health threat.

As coronavirus cases started increasing in parts of the US at a quick rate, governors of different states began declaring a state of emergency.

Governor Roy Cooper declared North Carolina under a state of emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak on March 10. State residents started preparing for the outbreak to have an impact in NC, and cancellations and closings began happening one after another.

President Donald Trump also declared a national state of emergency soon after. 
Michael Millian, WPU senior, was very disappointed by the closure of campus and cancellation of all events, but understood that what was done was a must as we are all going through crazy times. He wishes that the semester and his college career would have been able to end on more of a positive note like planned.

“It sucks my last semester ended like this. It just is a weird time right now in this country and the school is taking the right measures to ensure our safety, but still wish I could be in Raleigh,” said Millian.

Carlee Jackson, WPU senior and education major, was also a student teacher for Wake County Public School System. Upon the school’s closure, she moved back home to Beaufort, NC. She has had to adjust in more ways than just moving three hours from Raleigh.

Jackson is required to put in a certain number of weeks working as a full- time student teacher in order to get her teaching license.  She was assured that this would not affect her ability to get her degree and her licensure. However, it is still unclear how she will move forward.

In the meantime, she has resumed her job working at a diner in Beaufort that is still open for takeout orders. She is thankful to be making some money during this time, but she feels the restaurant will eventually close for a while.

“Something that has been difficult is the lack of answers to questions. No one seems to be certain about what will happen next in regards to pretty much everything, and it is unsettling to be playing things by ear. I don’t know what will change heading into the next day,” said Jackson.

She hopes the children she has worked with are safe and coping with this adjustment, and she worries about how they are navigating this uncertainty.  She plans to stay home in Beaufort and practice social distancing.

“Something I have had to adjust is my whole schedule. I was student teaching, so now my experience will be modified. I won’t get to finish out the school year with the same class,” said Jackson.

Patrick Calhoun, WPU freshman, thinks that the Coronavirus outbreak is something that should be taken seriously.

“People have realized how serious the virus is and are drastically having to adapt to their changing environments. This includes disinfecting more often, making sure you have a sufficient amount of food and drink, and how consumers have to change their methods of getting ordinary supplies,” said Calhoun.

While Calhoun is disappointed in the truly odd world this pandemic has created, he feels as if the precautions we as a country have taken are necessary.

“The difficult part of this has to be taking proper precautions to ensure infection rates decrease. This is describing how it is safest to wait 14 days without showing symptoms to start interacting with others, especially older ones,” said Calhoun.

Amongst the whole ordeal, he finds himself to be most worried about having sufficient supplies to last throughout the quarantine.

“People are worried about two things: catching and spreading the virus, and do I have what I need to wait this thing out. People are worried about losing their jobs and money due to the labor force suffering,” said Calhoun.

Nicholas Phan, WPU junior, was somewhat prepared for classes to move online, but it still shocked him because he didn’t think that the virus would become such a huge deal. 
He’s adjusting to taking classes online still, but it has been difficult for him since it’s harder for him to concentrate while being at home. He misses all of his friends and is trying to take his classes seriously with the new online format and has mixed feelings about everything. He’s aiming to finish this semester off strong.

“I’m worried about how long it will take for our lives to get back to normal,” said Phan. “It’s hard to not be able to go out as often or as much as you want. Money is also a huge thing because it’s hard finding internships and jobs during the summer when businesses are closing.”

Kristina Mojica, WPU junior, was disappointed to hear that her junior year came to an end so abruptly. It came as a shock to her that the campus was closing due to the spread of COVID-19. She understands that there is a need for social distancing, but that does not make life any easier, especially with online classes.

“[Classes] suck honestly. They lag too much and I can’t focus,” said Mojica.

Mojica and her roommates are becoming restless since they are used to always being on the go. Their lives went from being busy with athletics and school every day to barely getting out of the house. They continue to come up with creative ways to stay entertained inside the apartment.

“I hate it. We’ve had to adjust our entire life. We can’t go out and be active. We are bored. It’s difficult because we are usually active and now we can’t be. We are worried about the economy and how I am going to pay for gas once it skyrockets,” said Mojica.

Taylor Burton, WPU senior, felt a wide range of emotions after hearing about the school closing through the remainder of the semester. Having to evacuate and remove her stuff from her dorm within a week, losing both her jobs, her graduation being postponed, and saying goodbye to some of her colleagues was difficult to process.

Her classes now use Google hangouts as a way of communication, which hasn’t been difficult to keep track. Burton mostly shares her concerns about her fellow classmates who have internships conflicting with online classes and overall safety for their health amidst this pandemic.

“I felt really sad and hurt about the campus closing for the remainder of the semester,” said Burton. “Overall though, I am glad that the school is putting our safety above everything else. I will always be proud to be a Pacer.”

The WPU community is committed to helping each other and providing alternative ways for contact. Public Safety is also emphasizing the importance of following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control that would contribute to the health of the community.

“Experts recommend strict hygiene measures such as practicing good hygiene by washing hands regularly. As well as covering coughs and sneezes, avoiding contact with sick individuals and staying at home if you are sick,” said John.

The CDC also recommends social distancing, reducing face touching, and contacting health professionals if showing symptoms. John emphasizes the importance of staying up to date on new developments.

“The thing that worries me is that some people will not take this event seriously. We all have an obligation to our family, friends, and the community to follow the guidelines recommended by their state and local government and the Federal government. By keeping yourself healthy and safe, you contribute to the health and safety of your community,” said John.

The Wellness Center at WPU is extending services remotely in support of students on and off-campus. They are offering a service called Telehealth, which is an appointment-based online counseling app.

“We will continue to partner with Residence Life and the Wellness Center to support both students and staff. Students can always feel free to contact our office at 919.508.2401 with any questions.”

Contributors:
Ann Evans
Alex Garrison
Matthew Merino
Victoria Mims
Jordan Sample
Madde Tatum
Nakyia Taylor
Shannon Turner

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