Students mixed feelings toward pandemic schooling

By: Alisha Hancock, Staff Writer 
Photo by Meghan Hudson/ The Towerlight

This year’s spring semester is coming to a close, and Towson University residential students have voiced mixed opinions on their experiences and look ahead to the fall 2021 semester. 

Freshman Isis Barnes says that while campus was quiet due to the lack of people living on-campus this semester, she enjoyed the experience.

“I think it’s harder to meet new people because for me there’s not a lot of people in my residence hall,” Barnes said. 

In contrast, freshman Natasha Chisaka says that she enjoyed the quieter atmosphere on campus. 

“I kind of like the fact that not everyone is here because it is not busy,” Chisaka said. “I just like also having that new sense of independence that I didn’t really have before and just being able to walk around and just have everything near me and accessible to me. It’s really nice and convenient.” 

Freshman Patrick O’Toole says that this past semester was better than the previous. 

“It’s kind of annoying getting kicked off because I set everything up and hung my posters up and then they kicked me out two weeks later,” O’Toole said. “I’m pretty glad that we’ve been able to get through the whole semester.” 

Similarly to Barnes, sophomore Brandon Richards says he enjoyed his time on-campus this semester.

“I mean for me, what I lacked at home is being on campus and having that mindset that kept me focused on my work,” Richards said. “I think that was good about living on campus.” 

While the majority of instruction was online, several lab and clinical courses were held in a hybrid model. Sophomore Summer Salyer had four hybrid courses, one being a ballet course that included studio time.

“I feel good about it,” Salyer said. “I think it was really helpful and beneficial because last semester doing dance classes online was really stressful.” 

Junior Maria Puglese shared a similar sentiment.

“Yeah, I definitely enjoy having the hybrid rather than straight up online,” Puglese said. “Now I would prefer 100% in person but I’ll take the hybrid versus online anytime.” 

While hybrid classes were seen as a positive by some, others such as sophomore Rayner Johnson pointed out some downsides. 

“It was okay,” said Johnson. “They had all the Zoom class up, but it felt dead sometimes because it was really only like you and a couple other people in the class.”

In addition to abiding by campus COVID-19 protocols, residents were required to participate in sentinel testing through the semester. Half of students, staff and faculty on campus for more than four hours per week were randomly selected to participate in once weekly PCR testing, while the other half were required to participate in twice weekly rapid testing. These two groups switched midway through the semester.

“Getting tested twice a week, that was annoying,” Salyer said. “It’s mandatory, which I understand, but I think it just felt a little inconvenient sometimes.”

The dining halls on campus also adopted new carry out options for meals in response to the pandemic. During the semester, dining halls operated under 25% capacity for indoor seating. Several cafes including the LA and Enactus cafe were also closed. 

“It’s also good for health as well because you don’t want a lot of people in the dining room congregating themselves so taking out is also a really good thing,” Richards said. 

Salyer says she hopes the take-out dining option will remain in place next semester. 

“[Last semester], they wouldn’t let you carry food out, you’d have to eat inside the dining hall,” Salyer said. “I feel like that was always kind of annoying because what if I just want to grab food and go? I like how this year we got to take out because now we can also eat outside and stuff and that’s nice.” 

While the carry out option at the dining halls was favored by students, the lack of diversity in food choices faced some criticism. 

“I wish there was more healthy options because almost all the food I get is fried,” Johnson said.

Freshman Jenna Orebaugh also criticized the lack of diversity in food choices. 

“I do wish there was more options for Glen Dining,” Orebaugh said. “It does get a little boring after like two weeks of eating the same thing.” 

TU recently announced their plan for living and learning on campus this fall to be fully in-person. 

While she looks forward to having all of her classes in-person, Salyer says she’s concerned about the upcoming semester. 

“I feel like it’s good but at the same time a part of me is kind of scared because COVID[-19] but since everyone has to be vaccinated I guess it’ll be okay,” Salyer said. “I think it’ll be good as long as people just actually don’t go too crazy and actually maintain precautions, hopefully.”

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