Written by 2:08 pm Opinions, The Quarantine Diaries • One Comment

Curtain Call: How Are Our Camels Doing?

Featuring the SGA Chair of Academic Affairs and newly committed students

Photo courtesy of Nefertari Pierre-Louis.


Hey, what’s up? From me to you —student to student— it’s rather bizarre that we all had our last school day at Conn without even knowing (quite literally, for seniors). I personally have no recollection of my final interactions on campus, but it was Friday, so I can probably guess what I ate at Harris. It’s interesting to know we live our lives this way—oblivious of the fact that everything can change within moments. Situations like these induce thoughts of winding back the clock, but the past is well out of reach. The phrase “you never know what you have until it’s gone” weighs heavily on our hearts. A few months ago, if anyone would’ve told me we’d be quarantined for several weeks on the account of a global virus, I’d tell them to lay off the Netflix Originals. Yet, here we are, starring in Season 3 of the twisted Sci-Fi drama: COVID-19. Wherever you may be on this vast earth today, remember: just a few months ago we were all sharing the same space. One admirable value of Conn is the importance of staying connected. So I ask that you give up a little time, step outside your reality, and revisit the Conn community through the lens of your fellow schoolmates. 

How are things going at home? Has remote-learning been manageable? 

Sam Crockford | 2022 | Rochester, MA

Being at home is fine, but boring. Overall, I’m very blessed to have a safe place to come back to. Like most, my barber has been closed and I made the mistake of letting my sister cut my hair. It went disastrously, and as a result I decided to just shave my head entirely. For me, remote learning has been awful. I respect my professor’s Herculean attempts to recreate our classroom, but learning online will never be as effective as residential college learning. 

Noah Wills-Johnston | 2021 | Queens, NY 

I feel like a high-schooler living with my parents again, except they forget I’m 20. Online classes aren’t a problem, but it’s difficult to balance it with home life. Conn was a place where I could focus solely on school, but when I’m back home I have a serious role in the family to fulfill. This is not a life I want to get used to, it’s not healthy to be inside 24/7. I feel like a caged animal. 

Anonymous | 2023 

Being at home and balancing online school isn’t as manageable for some as it is for others. For me, things have gotten very difficult. My mom actually just filed for unemployment, and the process hasn’t been easy. Our family hasn’t received a response since March, not to mention it took nearly 12 hours to apply. It’s hard for me to sit in class and retain any new information, my mind is always somewhere else. On campus I was able to concentrate, but at home there’s just so much going on. 

Sebastian Shames | 2023 | Portland, ME  

I’ve enjoyed hanging out with my siblings, but I can’t wait to leave the house and interact with other humans. Online classes are manageable, but I feel like I’m not learning anything, mainly because it’s a lot harder to stay focused in class. It’s difficult to be taught the same amount of material remotely and some professors might not realize that, so they continue to force the subject along. It honestly depends on the class though, I thought my Architecture course transferred really well to remote learning.

What are the quarantine procedures like in your part of the world? What is your government mandating? 

Wesley Morris | 2020 | Montego Bay, Jamaica

Jamaica is mandating that everyone in public spaces wear masks and keep a social distance of 6 feet apart. There is a 12 hour curfew from 6PM to 6AM everyday, in which everyone must be at home. Gatherings of more than 10 people are also prohibited. An entire parish was recently put under complete lockdown due to a spike in cases and community-spread infections. For a while our borders have been closed, but the country is planning to start a controlled re-entry of citizens soon. 

Jitu Dribssa | 2022 | Ethiopia, Africa 

In Ethiopia, the virus hasn’t spread that much, at least not yet…We have roughly 124 cases in our country. No mandatory quarantine has been ordered yet, however, our government is suggesting that, if we can, we should stay home. My family is staying home, but not everyone has a job that allows them to do so. I think my government is doing a good job, we have hand washing stations everywhere in the city. You have to wash your hands before entering and leaving any place. Social distancing is also happening on some level. 

Emma Storm | 2023 | Birmingham, AL

Starting May 1st, my State’s ‘Stay at Home’ order is becoming a ‘Safer at Home’ order. This means individuals are encouraged, rather than mandated, to stay home and follow good sanitation practices. While some businesses are re-opening, higher-risk businesses and activities will remain closed. All retail stores can open as long as they only allow 50% occupancy and follow social distancing guidelines/sanitation rules. As of now, no one is required to wear a mask or gloves in public and that isn’t changing May 1st. However, my Birmingham community has decided that masks should, and will, be worn in public spaces starting May 1st, but this is not state-mandated. Right now, everyone is following social distancing rules quite willingly. 

Anonymous | 2023 | South Florida 

In Florida, the beaches have reopened and it’s created a lot of disagreement within our community. I personally don’t feel there’s an issue with the decision. If everyone practices safe precautions and interacts appropriately with others, I don’t see why there should be a beach ban in my area. The beaches near me are extremely spacious, so it is very possible to enjoy yourself without having to fully interact with others or even come in contact with things they’ve touched. I think the whole issue boils down to how smart an individual is willing to be with their actions. I understand that trusting a mass of people to follow health protocols may become a larger problem, but if any individual wishes not to go out when certain spaces reopen, then they may exercise that right.

What have you been binge-watching on Netflix during quarantine? 

Makena Doran | 2023 | Manhattan, NY

The Office, for the 3rd time, obviously. 

Sam Crockford | 2022 | Rochester, MA

West Wing

Nifemi Olugbemiga | 2020 | Chicago, IL  

Top 3? All American, Money Heist, and Ozark. 

Mia Barbuto | 2022 | New Paltz, NY

Don’t F*** With Cats. It’s better than Tiger King, you’re welcome. Also Crip Camp and The Runaways! 

Daniella Maney | 2020 | Marblehead, MA

Ooo, a solid question. I just binged the first 9 seasons of Naruto. Gentrified is really good too. 

MT Tshuma | 2022 | Magwegwe, Zimbabwe 

Definitely Mindhunter

Griffin Taylor | 2020 | Salt Lake City, UT

Well, I’ve been binging The Wire, but that’s on HBO. On Netflix I’ve been watching Dark, but The Wire is my true quarantine show. 

Sukrit Nurang | 2023 | New Delhi, India 

The Last Dance. That show is amazing.

With school ending on such an abrupt note, many plans have changed drastically. How are you feeling about finding jobs post-graduation? 

Josh Simensky | 2020 | Falmouth, ME  

I’m a bit nervous actually, but I’m trying not to think about it. I had a job, but it might not be a thing anymore.

Natasha Strugatz | 2020 |  New York City

I’m feeling a mix of emotions. On the one hand, it seems the only thing we can do is live in the moment since the future is so up in the air. It’s nice to know I’m not alone, everyone is stressed about finding a job in this crazy world right now. There will always be the usual uncertainty about securing work post-graduation, after all, we are just finishing our college career. 

Julio César Herrera | 2020 | Brooklyn, NY

Well for me, before the pandemic I had a temp job that was offered from a previous internship. I was still looking for other opportunities, but that was my secure fallback. With everything that’s happened, my temp has been revoked because the organization wasn’t sure what to do with their own employees. Application deadlines have grown to a halt. Job insecurity is one of the biggest challenges I’m facing right now, and it has started to interfere with my classwork over the past month. Everything just seems much more uncertain now. 

Bempa Ashia | 2020 | Bronx, NY 

With everything that’s going on, even if students secure a job post-graduation, it’s now more about maintaining that job. I recently accepted an offer to be a Fellow in Venture for America, a two-year fellowship program for recent grads whose mission is to essentially create economic opportunity in American cities. For those two-years, I would  be working at a startup company in order to gain all the tools necessary to thrive in a startup environment. However, due to the instability of the economy, a fair amount of startup companies can no longer sustain themselves. So, even with this opportunity, I still share the worries of my peers. For the fellowship, we have yet to go through what we call the “Match” process. This means I am left in a grey area about which city and company I will be working with post-Conn. Nonetheless, I am very hopeful and have tremendous faith in Venture for America to guide me through these difficult times and help me secure work. The networking component of the fellowship is beyond helpful and they truly care for the wellbeing of their fellows.

What’s something you were looking forward to before everything went south? 

Griffin Taylor | 2020 | Salt Lake City, UT

Hm, honestly, I was really excited for 50 Days and Floralia. Just wanted to have that final send off with all the other seniors. Obviously graduation is on the list too, but that’s kind of obligatory haha. 

Kendrick Hawkins | 2023 | Dallas, TX

I would’ve loved to be on campus during Spring, when the flowers are so bright and Tempel is so green. Being around that kind of beauty everyday would’ve been really nice. I was also looking forward to the warm weather activities. I wanted to go on the backpacking trip with Outdoor Adventures and to the beach with friends. I just wanted to experience Spring at Conn. 

Joshua Estrada | 2023 | Denver, CO 

I was honestly looking forward to creating my last two films for my FLM210 class. It’s definitely one of the most difficult courses I have ever taken, but I feel like that’s what makes it so rewarding. After weeks of shooting footage and practically camping out in the computer lab to edit everything perfectly, there is no greater feeling than turning in your completed work. I remember submitting my very first film not too long ago, and I’m sad I wasn’t able to continue the process and submit two more. It would’ve been so amazing to make three films in one semester. The class has changed drastically with the switch to remote-learning. On campus, I had the hands-on opportunity of exploring film as a medium all while expanding my skills as a director, screenwriter, and cinematographer. I hope that I can eventually continue my film career at Conn and finish what I started.   

What are your opinions about the Pass/Fail grading option? 

Anthony Bielecki | 2022 | Methuen, MA

Pass/Fail gives myself and many other students the ability to focus on our studies freely without the overwhelming stress of grades and maintaining a ‘competitive GPA.’ Remote learning has brought a great deal of challenges to students of all backgrounds. Students may have to deal with a lack of adequate equipment, responsibilities at home, external stress brought by life in quarantine, and much more. These are not challenges we would normally face during a regular semester, so it’s only fair that our classes would not proceed to evaluate us as if everything were still normal. Pass/Fail lifts some weight off our shoulders while still respecting our work this semester in an accurate way. Without the Pass/Fail option, these unprecedented times would be significantly and unfairly harsher for all students, particularly those with less privileged backgrounds.  

Anonymous | 2021 

I am accepting the circumstances of Pass/Fail, but I feel Universal Pass would’ve been the most ideal policy. I emphasize with students who have been thrust back into wildly different time zones and students who are stuck in disruptive homes with poor WiFi. These are real conditions that weigh into academic success. It’s been difficult for me to continue investing 100% so that all the hard work I put in throughout the first half of this semester will come to fruition. I’ve suffered power outages, a shift in time zone, and every nuance in between. I think it’s important to acknowledge whether you have the opportunity of using Pass/Fail as a means of padding your record or improving your gpa, because many others don’t have the circumstances to adopt this strategic mindset. When you’re in very challenging conditions, Pass/Fail is seemingly the only way to get by. It is less of an option and more of a requirement for academic success. At least with Universal Pass we can eliminate the idea that grad-schools will subconsciously favor students who choose letter grades this semester. We should all be on the same page. 

Ansamarie Sogade | 2021 | Chelmsford, MA

For me, it’s basically like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound. Many students cannot use Pass/Fail because of graduate school requirements while simultaneously having to deal with several additional pressures that wouldn’t occur during the normal on-campus experience. In the end, I’m very appreciative of the college’s efforts, but I still feel as though Conn and other universities across the country could’ve done more to accomodate students during these times. 

 

Some individuals were instrumental in alleviating academic stress for students and getting Pass/Fail across the board. I believe it is crucial that we understand what goes on behind the scenes in order for things to happen. Our representatives truly matter. Oftentimes we forget policies do not simply appear out of thin air, there is a force behind every decision and one of the forces is student government. Here is a more in depth insight from SGA Chair of Academic Affairs, Ben Meyer: 

Ben Meyer | 2023 | Andover, MA

What was your role in the implementation of a Pass/Fail grading option? 

As Chair of Academic Affairs, it’s my duty to represent the student body and have their best interests in mind. When Conn closed in line with the other liberal arts schools, we knew altering the grading system was next on our agenda. 

What was the process like? 

The Academic and Administrative Planning Committee (AAPC) drafted up a legislation that stated students would have the option of selecting Pass/Fail towards the end of the semester. Everything felt a little rushed, we had to discuss the matter over email at first. I proposed to the Committee that it would be more equitable if Conn mandated Universal Pass, as that’s what several other school’s were doing. The Committee definitely acknowledged my suggestion, but ultimately felt it wouldn’t realistically pass on the floor of faculty by a majority vote. 

What did the Student Academic Committee decide? 

In concluding that the Universal Pass notion wouldn’t win on the floor of faculty, I wrote up a statement which stated that we, the students, supported the Pass/Fail grading option as opposed to proceeding with the regular grading system. Also, in regards to when Pass/Fail would be available, someone actually put up an amendment on the faculty meeting floor (where I’m not allowed) that proposed students would have to choose Pass/Fail before finals. I suppose it was proposed to avoid slack amongst the student body. It was voted on and it passed with the overall motion. Personally, I didn’t consider it ideal, but we take what we can realistically get. 

 

Here’s a bonus! With college acceptances in place, I reached out to three committed students of the Class of 2024. Here’s what our soon to be Camels have to say: 

Congratulations on your acceptance! What are you most looking forward to at Conn? 

Angela Giaconia | 2024 | Virginia 

I am most looking forward to making new friends and joining an acapella group! I’ve heard such great things, so I’m super excited. 

Jonathan Howell | 2024 | Chicago, IL 

I’m looking forward to the freedom of being on my own, a different social life, and just being in a new environment on the East Coast. I’m really excited to gain knowledge about the subjects I plan to study: finance and economics. 

Fritz Baldauf | 2024 | San Francisco, CA  

I am most looking forward to joining the sailing team, I’m really excited for that. I’m also excited to meet my classmates, 2024!!

 

So, this is my version of a curtain call. Bow for whatever you’d like— feel applauded for bearing through these weird times. Step into an imaginary spotlight and realize the strength it takes to get up everyday and tackle your reality. Perhaps at times you felt you couldn’t do it, yet here you are, getting it done. In truth, we all grace the same earth and live considerably different lives, it’s important to detach from your perspective and walk a few blocks in someone else’s shoes. I hope —if anything— that this article serves as a small reminder that you’re never, ever alone. Thank you for reading along. To leave you all with a lovely quote from Og Mandino, “I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.” Be safe and farewell. •

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