Editorial: Looking back at our first completely in-person semester since the COVID-19 pandemic began

Editorial Board

By the time this article is published, the last week of classes will be over and we will officially be in full finals season. While most of us are racing towards the finish line, let’s take a moment to reflect back on the semester, evaluating not just our own lives but also the university as a whole. 

First off, we survived our in-person semester after several online ones. Case Western Reserve University certainly did not make it easy for us to adjust from completely online classes to completely in-person ones. Online classes, despite some professors’ best efforts, were incredibly difficult. It was grueling to sit in class on a screen, making it almost impossible to absorb information as we would have pre-pandemic. So, after almost three semesters of adapting to an entirely different learning environment, the university should have expected and prepared for students’ having a rough time readjusting to in-person learning. 

Most of us had forgotten what it was like to not only attend in-person classes, but also to balance it with student organizations, work, social life, self-care and more. Suddenly, it was too much, too fast, and instead of CWRU supporting us through the change, the school showed no attempts to encourage compassion. While some professors were understanding, many more were strict and piled on work that seemed to overlap with that of other classes, and while this type of treatment isn’t exactly new, it was still overwhelming. Everyone underwent different experiences during this pandemic, so coming back to a university that tried to pretend that things could go back to how they were pre-pandemic felt callous. CWRU should have tried to ease us back into in-person college life, but instead, it seems administrators never even considered the reality of being back on-campus. However, despite CWRU making our lives more difficult, we have made it through to the end of probably one of the most challenging semesters most of us have ever faced—something that we should be proud of.

Further, as we head into winter break, it’s important to note that the pandemic is not over. While, yes, coronavirus will never go away, we still haven’t reached herd immunity, and more and more variants are appearing. Most recently is the Omicron variant, which has been noted as a very high-risk variant by the World Health Organization. 

With the emergence of this dangerous variant, we need to address the university’s ongoing response to COVID-19. At the beginning of the semester, we had to undergo mandatory testing and were required to be fully vaccinated in order to stay on-campus. Now, as the semester draws to a close, residents on-campus have to participate in testing every other week, and even so, if you miss a week, you aren’t required to make it up. Another aspect of the university’s response to the pandemic is mask mandates. While, yes, we are technically supposed to wear masks correctly indoors at on-campus buildings, that hasn’t really been enforced. In public spaces like Kelvin Smith Library, Tinkham Veale Center, Thwing and so forth, it is rare nowadays to see everyone properly masked up. Some people don’t put masks over their noses, and others aren’t wearing masks at all, even if they aren’t eating anything. Evidently, CWRU has become increasingly careless with enforcing its guidelines as the semester progresses, and with the emergence of a more dangerous variant, it is negligent to continue treating this pandemic as if it doesn’t exist or isn’t as pressing anymore. 

Next semester should hopefully be better since we have all suffered through the unexpected adjustments of this semester. That doesn’t excuse CWRU’s unpreparedness for a full campus, though, but it is unlikely that they will take action to remedy our academic readjustment issues for the spring. However, one thing that the university should take definite action on is its pandemic guidelines, especially with the emergence of the Omicron variant. While this semester has certainly been difficult, I doubt any of us want to return to online classes at home.