Congratulations to the Class of 2022! As I walked across the stage with peers I’ve shared (virtual and physical) classrooms with over the last 4 years, I found myself reflecting. As a majority of my time in college was spent during the COVID-19 pandemic, my college experience was absolutely defined by its relationship to the pandemic. Being involved with social justice organizations and causes through the student diversity department at my school and other student organizations, I was consistently dealing with the university’s response to COVID-19 and how they were supporting students alongside it.
I wouldn’t say that my school’s response to COVID-19 was perfect or equitable, but as everything was happening so fast and with so much unknown, there was no way they could have approached it perfectly. I remember in December 2020, when they were planning to start bringing students back on campus for hybrid classes, thinking that it was way too early to begin going back to “normal.” Daily COVID rates were at the highest they had been yet, and the vaccine wasn’t even available at the time. I remember thinking about how ignorant and inequitable this return to campus plan was, as a predominately-white-institution (PWI) was attempting to return to campus as COVID was disproportionately affecting low-income communities and communities of color at much higher rates. I was thinking about the focus and resources that were being put towards the small percentage of students that would be able to return to campus—focus and resources that were being taken away from students who weren’t receiving the support they needed from the university to begin with.
Little did I know that 2 years later, I would be graduating with COVID cases higher than they were in December 2020. Granted, the world looks a bit different now; vaccines are out, social distancing and masking have inherently become a way of life, and the way we celebrate looks different overall.
This past fall, we officially returned to campus with a hybrid model. To be honest, I was skeptical. At the end of the summer, COVID rates were going back up after a summer of loosened regulations. I thought for sure, we’d be back online within a few weeks. But with the effort of students, faculty, and staff, safety precautions were followed as everyone was determined to stay in-person, and make up for lost time. The unified community that was born from maintaining COVID safety was refreshing, as I don’t think I’ve felt a community at that large of a scale before.
I think my time as an undergraduate student aligned with a very unique time in history, with a global pandemic disrupting my sophomore year followed by the biggest racial reckoning of our generation. Being back in-person my senior year was nice, but I have to say it never felt the same as it did pre-pandemic. The excitement of coming to college and experiencing a college campus my first year is something I haven’t felt since then, though knowing that the new first years were building that same experience on campus this year was exciting to watch, and gives me hope and excitement to see what the next generation will accomplish.
Ethan Chiu is a graduate of Loyola University Chicago and a recent member of PCC’s Student Advisory Council.
Student Advisory Council
PCC’s Student Advisory Council (SAC) brings together students from 2 and 4-year colleges and universities across Illinois to learn about and advocate for greater equity and inclusion at their institutions.Click here to learn more about the SAC