Spring semester finishes online due to COVID-19 pandemic

Story by Elizabeth Hanson and Maya Hodison

Baker University will no longer be holding in-person classes on campus for the remainder of the spring semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic. An email from President Dr. Lynne Murray was sent out on the afternoon of March 20 that explained to students what this means.

“The decisions were incredibly difficult and were not made lightly, but this is an extraordinary time and these measures are required to protect the people around us,” Murray said. “These next few weeks are critical to our community’s and nation’s ability to control the spread of the coronavirus. What each of us does individually and what we do collectively to protect our health is crucial.”

Originally, Baker had announced that students would return to campus to finish classes on April 5. However, with this national emergency posing a threat to large groups of people, online classes will begin on March 23 to aid in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Final exams will be held online as well at the end of the semester.

Students must vacate campus by March 27 and take all personal belongings from student housing. Dean of Students Cassy Bailey must be contacted by residents to sign up for a move out time. Additional accommodations can be discussed with Bailey if students are unable to pick up their belongings.

“Proactivity is key in this pandemic. Getting students safely home where they could shelter was my top priority. For those students who could not go home quickly, it was our duty to care for them until we could move them forward.This all unfolded quickly,” Bailey said. “I am appreciative of the Baker leadership for their guidance and direction. I am also beyond thankful for the amazing Student Affairs staff. People really stepped up to assist – it was amazing teamwork.”

Any students who have traveled recently will not be allowed to return to campus until they have self-quarantined for 15 days. After that time and communication with Bailey students will be able to collect the remainder of their belongings and take them home. A student native to California, senior Janeane Hernandez is back home but will still have to pay for utilities and lease on her apartment in Baldwin City during the pandemic.

“My family and I are practicing social distancing. I find that the most difficult part of social distancing and quarantine is finding things to do that are fun, productive, and that fill up my time” Hernandez said. “I’ve realized how simple things like running outside, hanging out with friends, and going out to eat at a restaurant are luxuries. For now, I will continue to quarantine while focusing on continuing my studies online and finding other things to keep me busy.”

“It’s quite lonely,” sophomore and international student Luca Janssens comments about the campus shutdown. Janssens is able to live in his fraternity house as he is from the Netherlands but is concerned about flights to get home now that classes are online.

“I have to see if I can actually reschedule my flight, but if I can I will go home. I am just worried that either the U.S or the Netherlands may close down its borders completely,” Janssens said.

Many students must return to campus during an allotted time to gather their things and find a way home.

Additionally, commencement has not been canceled, but postponed until there is more information about this national emergency. This marks the second commencement ceremony that has been canceled this academic year. Seniors will wait until the school reschedules their time to walk across the stage.

When snow and ice caused the cancellation of the winter commencement ceremony for those who graduated at semester, the administration had to make new plans for them. Those graduates were set to participate in the spring ceremony. Since no one knows exactly when the need for social distancing will cease, the new date is not yet confirmed.

Graduates will still receive their degrees on time, as their diplomas will be mailed to students after final grades come out.

More importantly, graduates are unsure what the cancellation will ultimately mean for them. For the class of 2020, this semester was meant to be full of long-lasting memories.

“We were still imagining those bittersweet ‘lasts,’ and now we won’t get to live those out anymore,” senior Alyssa Monson said. “For many of us, nothing could have prepared us for almost two months of our senior year being stripped away.”

Listening to the sound of bagpipes while walking through campus is a right of passage for Baker graduates. Being able to go through the traditional graduation process and receive a diploma from the university is a dream students work toward during their time in college.

“Walking across the stage at the end of it all is a great way to solidify all of the hard work we put in over the years,” Lattimer said. “Graduation is something I have looked forward to from the beginning. It is one last chance to be with all of our friends that we have met along the way and to celebrate a big accomplishment in our lives.”

Though these turn of events have been shocking, students have hope. “While this is disheartening for us seniors, I am confident that there is meaning in every season of life,” senior Monson said.

“I am impressed by and very proud to be part of the Baker family. I am encouraged by our students and their efforts to keep themselves safe and healthy. As you continue to study and work, please take care of yourself and others around you. While you practice social distancing, stay connected, virtually, with your colleagues,” Murray said, “If we continue to work together, we look forward to celebrating the achievements of our Class of 2020 and seeing you in person in the coming months.”