On March 12, 2020, Indiana State University’s University Communication announced in an email that the university is moving to online-only instruction starting March 16. This news came as a shock to many and the responses varied.
Some jumped right into action.
“I was thinking I needed to get busy planning! I was also thinking I was going to miss seeing students and talking to them in person,” said Dr. Lori Henson, an instructor of the department of communication.
Some immediately expressed concern.
“My main concern is how effective these classes are going to be in an online format. I dropped an online specifically to avoid the format and now all of them are in it. Hell, one of my professors straight up said that if daycare closes too, they can't do their work as taking care of three kids will make it impossible for them to teach in this format,” ISU student Aaron Sapp said. “Especially since ISU thought it was a great idea to wait after their Give to Blue event to tell everyone, giving all the professors a day and a half of prep to convert an entire second half of a semester online.”
Some received even more bad news.
On March 16, ISU senior Cici Moore received an email announcing that the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department and Jail suspended all internships for the remainder of the semester.
“It’s kind of disappointing to see that my internship was cancelled. I understand why, but I’ve worked so hard to get here. I’m in my last semester and it’s all being ruined. I was supposed to be the first one to graduate and now I’m losing it to a virus,” said Moore.
This pandemic and the closings threw a large wrench in many lives.
“I was at work at WZIS and I found out by word of mouth. My coworker Lincoln Schlemmer said we’re moving online and I said no we’re not and he said to check my email,” said ISU student Jillian Bontjes.
Bontjes noted that the timing of the announcement was what surprised her, not the announcement itself.
“I wasn’t surprised because I knew so many places around us closed. I figured it was coming. I figured it was coming that day. I was also feeling stressed because I am involved in a lot of things. There was a lot of scrambling those first couple of days to figure out what we’re doing. For example, I’m in a music fraternity so we had to figure out what to do with our ritual ceremony, our meetings, our elections. I’m in a lot of organizations where we have a lot happening and all of a sudden we had three days to get out of here,” said Bontjes.
Within the hour, Bontjes received her first email from Reslife asking what her plans were. Within about 10 to 15 minutes she received her my first note from her RA to turn in her key if she planned on leaving her apartment during this time.
“That whole thing got really stressful for me because Reslife wanted an answer by midnight that day and I didn’t know what I was doing. I still had a lot of things I needed to figure out. Almost immediately, Rich [Green] came in and started talking about work, I still needed to talk to Dr. Glende about my other job, and I needed to figure out what was happening with my other organizations,” said Bontjes.
Bontjes originally planned on staying on campus until Monday or Tuesday to “get [her] ducks in a row.”
“They said the residence halls will remain open but we strongly encourage you to leave by noon on Saturday. I think they also encouraged us to stay away until noon the day before classes started back up. We’re not required but strongly encouraged came up a lot,” said Bontjes.
Between the rush to respond and the vague messaging on some of the flyers posted in the dorms, Bontjes felt pressured to run home and scrap her original plans.
“Things with Reslife quickly got unpleasant and stressful. More so than they had been. Then my mom got worried which just added to the overall stress. She wasn’t worried so much about me getting sick but she was afraid we would go into quarantine and get stuck so she wanted us to get home before that happened,” Bontjes said. “Reslife has kept us out of the loop in a lot of this so I can’t say I blame her. Overall, I’m not impressed by how this was handled by ISU. I’ve heard a lot of frustrations on all sides.”
Bontjes and other residents got an email saying no guests were allowed in the dorms, which she assumed to mean no non-ISU students. To pass some time and relieve stress, she and some neighbors decided they’d all play games next door and invite a guest from another hall. A neighbor told Bontjes that this would not fly because the guest policy was updated to state only residents of that specific hall would be allowed in.
“I saw the next morning that the flyer now says no people who aren’t residents of this building are allowed in this building. It also said any inappropriate behavior can result in the termination of your contract which is stressful because they didn’t define inappropriate behavior which makes me want to get out of there before I did something they decided was bad to make them decide to take away my housing,” said Bontjes.
The flyer mentioned that if you are diagnosed you can leave but you can’t come back without a doctor’s note, which Bontjes said makes sense. She noted that the thought of staying on campus and trying to decipher the vague messaging became stressful so she quickly packed up and went home Sunday night.
After writing a majority of this piece, ISU president Deborah Curtis sent out a video announcing that the university is moving to online instruction for the remainder of the spring semester.
Bontjes has to come back to campus to finish moving out completely. Henson has to plan the rest of her semester online. Students like Sapp are still processing.
Here at the Statesman, we watched the announcement together. The seniors screamed after hearing spring commencement was cancelled. Our editor-in-chief especially needed to have a personal moment under her desk. The underclassmen kept saying they felt sorry for the seniors in the room.
Many of us called or received calls from our parents, significant others or friends to make sense of it all.
We all agreed that we were happy to receive the news while sitting in the room with everyone else, sharing both silence and laughs in this hard time. This is likely the last time this Statesman staff will all be in the newsroom together.
Our director mentioned that this is what we’re going to be telling our grandchildren about one day. She expressed that she was proud we continued with this edition of the paper and loved hearing that we are planning on having a reunion after this storm passes.