Morale dips during increased restriction, students hopeful as cases fall

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Ezra Craker

Johnny’s seating area closed as a result of rise in cases.

“Suckitude.” That’s how English professor Jennifer Holberg described the disappointments of the pandemic—not being able to see students’ faces, not being able to have events with the English department, missing out on social interaction and travel. 

In the wake of a two-week lockdown, students felt their own “suckitude”: tiredness, stress, and skepticism. 

“[I’m] pretty overwhelmed and stressed,” said junior Eva Heetebrij. 

Sophomore Katherine Rosendale sees hope in the lowering number of cases but remains concerned due to highly-contagious variants and the lack of social distancing she’s seen from some fellow students. “For all I know,” she said, “we could be going home in a week.” Several other students echoed the sentiment.

“This has definitely been the hardest couple weeks for students,” senior and resident assistant David van Dokkumburg said. He noted that students on his floor experienced loneliness during the enhanced restrictions. Because of the rise in cases, students couldn’t visit each other’s rooms or congregate in public spaces. With campus life so different, socializing has been tough. 

“I think people have had to shift from wanting to make new friends to simply maintaining old friendships,” van Dokkumburg said.

Residence Life staff have been affected by the enhanced restrictions, too. “[The Residence Life staff’s] morale sometimes goes up and down with the COVID numbers,” van Dokkumbrug said.

Fortunately, some dorm activities haven’t been put on pause. Prior to lockdown, van Dokkumburg’s dorm had an ongoing game of ‘assassin,’ where students were assigned other students to target with snowballs. This was a distanced outdoor activity and therefore COVID-safe. 

Several students said they’ve grown to appreciate ways they could connect prior to enhanced restrictions. Sophomore Hadassa Ribeiro felt this especially, since she returned to campus after being remote last semester. She’s missed things like catching up with friends over a meal, studying together and watching movies on the weekend. “It’s those small interactions that remind me there’s life on campus,” she said. 

For some students, COVID-related restrictions have become a matter of procedure.

“When I got the email about lockdown, I was like ‘okay, I know what to do,’” junior Sadie Laughlin said, noting the fact that students have had to comply with heightened restrictions before. She also acknowledged that, even as we find reasons to hope, the future remains uncertain. 

“Are we going to start wearing face guards everywhere? What’s next? A face sleeve? Bank-robbery masks?” she said jokingly, adding that she feels encouraged when she sees fellow students wearing two masks as the CDC now recommends

“I think the two week extended distancing was a reminder to keep doing what we were doing before to keep in-person classes,” said junior Kayla Johnson. 

As a new transfer student, Johnson has found navigating campus life with COVID restrictions challenging —but she’s hopeful that the campus atmosphere will get better as more students get vaccinated and cases go down in the area.

Like Johnson, many students expressed hope that the campus will return to a version of normalcy and that enhanced restrictions are one way to get there. 

Freshman Graham Kort said that the coming spring is promising. 

“As we gain opportunities to move outdoors for eating and hanging out, things will become much easier,” he said. 

For Holberg, this moment brings to mind Galatians 6:9, which says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

“We’re in the weariness part,” Holberg said, but it won’t last forever. “Spring is coming. Spring is coming.”