COVID-19: The impact on the lives of NEIU students
March 30, 2020
The new decade saw the deaths of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and up-and-coming rapper Pop Smoke before a fatal pandemic claimed the lives of over 20,000 and counting, subsequently reshaping social and economic standards.
However, while the coronavirus COVID-19 continues to warrant international isolation, sanitization and widespread quarantine, such drastic measures have crippled the NEIU student body’s morale.
In response to the global pandemic, impacted countries adopted a “stay-at-home” order in hopes of halting the outbreak of the aforementioned pandemic, which has already leaked into the earlier parts of spring. Countries such as China, Italy and now the United States have adopted a quarantine-entailed lockdown.
Though this order may have not come soon enough– the United States now has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world with more than 80,000 cases reported, according to CNN–NEIU’s student body is forced to adapt to rapid changes NEIU’S instruction model.
Fortunately, the United States has been taking nearly-unprecedented action for what seems like months. Besides the lockdown of largely-populated states such as California and Illinois, one notable example has been the suspension of all face-to-face contact at U.S. colleges and universities.
Through spring break extensions and transitions from face-to-face instruction to online classes, academic institutions adapted under harsh circumstances. Reactions from students, however, have varied, as some students believe their grades are in jeopardy.
In addition to schooling, students face alterations to their everyday lives. Eating habits, social interactions and modes of transportation continue to adjust as the coronavirus death toll leaps.
NEIU students agree with some of the new measures.
Senior and Communications, Media and Theater (CMT hereafter) major Barrett Sonn references his newly-formed living environment, noting that he’s made a habit of staying indoors for the last two weeks.
However, what has caught Barrett’s eye the most isn’t how fellow students have reacted, but rather the public’s willingness to recognize the pandemic’s impact.
“People are worried about making end’s meet so it’s been interesting to see a rise in activism,” said Sonn. “Freezing rent or bills, hazard pay for retail workers, things like that.”
While Son,’s notions carry a narrower scope, fellow members of NEIU’s student body are more concerned with how the university’s response to COVID-19 will influence their grades.
Senior and CMT major Vanessa Campos acknowledged the hardships endured by students struggling with the transition to online classes. Campos said, “I think it’s just harder to learn online and I’ve never been a fan of online classes. The worst part now is that my whole schedule is messed up.”
Campos also states that her final semester at NEIU is in shambles. In addition to the cancellation of the May commencement, Campos never considered the possibility of leaving campus for the final time in early March.
As seniors continue to grieve over their COVID-19-tainted final semester, lowerclassmen are still working harder than ever.
Whether it’s applying for graduate schools or just beginning to settle into NEIU, students realize that their online courses will still affect their grade point averages (GPA), barring the election of a pass/fail rubric. However, echoing Campos’ sentiments, NEIU students believe working from a home environment invites distractions.
For junior and psychology major Alen Radeljic, anxiety continues to creep in as the effects of COVID-19 are apparent. “I’m kind of anxious to finish the semester through a laptop in my room,” Radeljic said. “I’ve been living with my family for a while now and we can all agree that we get on each other’s nerves after even a day or two.”
While many college students relate to Radeljic’s experience, some good has come out of this situation. “Because I can’t go out, it’s forced me to become creative with cooking and eating different food,” said Radeljic.
Despite sacrificing the autonomy he’s become accustomed to, Radeljic’s upbeat attitude is one that fellow members of NEIU’s student body could admire.
Following NEIU’s decision to suspend face-to-face instruction for the remainder of the semester, students began a petition demanding that the university offer pass/fail options.
As cited in the petition, NEIU students are unable to escape a “toxic household,” resulting in heightened stress for students. Affected by the pandemic, hundreds of students have already lost their jobs, paving the way for financial uncertainty as expenses continue to grow. Health, family and societal-related stressors are included, as well.
In response to the petition, however, NEIU extended its existing pass/fail option through April 27. The option applies to undergraduates in good standing only, and proceeds as such: a student that completes a pass/fail course is awarded either a “P” or an “F,” with “P” indicating that they passed the class and “F” indicating that they failed the class.
Although the policy states that only an “F” affects a student’s GPA, students are given a maximum of 18 pass/fail hours. Hours may include transfer courses from other institutions and may be used toward graduation, but may not be used toward a student’s major area of concentration, minor, or General Education-Distributive Learning, according to the university’s website. While many students may not be aware that such a policy exists, given the current circumstances, the pass/fail option is an invaluable alternative to traditional grading models.
“I’m a visual learner and taking online classes would be difficult for me,” said NEIU student Susanna Ortiz. “I am very concerned about the process. Given this pandemic, many people are struggling both financially and mentally. That’s why I support pass/fail.”
Other than the pass/fail option offered by the university, NEIU started a Student Emergency Fund, providing financial relief for current students. During these unexpected hardships, students who are unable to meet essential expenses or unable to readjust their planned budget from the beginning of the semester are able to apply for the fund.
As for faculty and staff, they are able to donate and financially support students during these hard times.
Still, NEIU students indicate that they are receptive to the new education model. As touched on by the NEIU student body, no part of this transition has been easy, though a majority of the student body continues to adapt to these new conditions.
Thankfully, however, NEIU played a crucial role in the students’ transitions, providing instructions via email on how to use D2L, Google Hangout and Zoom. These adaptations have been responsible for the semester’s longevity, along with the university’s ability to completely transition at the drop of a hat.
If NEIU and its student body are able to muscle their way through the rest of the semester and all goes well with COVID-19, NEIU and neighboring universities can hope for a happy and healthy rest of 2020.