When the announcement was made that the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse would be hosting face-to-face classes at the start of the 2020 fall semester, some students and faculty were left with feelings of doubt and uncertainty about their positions at UWL.
Former sophomore at UWL, Hannah Boland, who recently withdrew from her classes said she doubted how the semester would go from the first day. “I knew this semester was going to be hard,” said Boland. “But things got so much worse after starting face-to-face, and then trying to transfer everything fully online. I just couldn’t keep up.”
Boland, who waitresses throughout the year, said she couldn’t keep up with the course load online and working full-time. “After things moved online, I figured they were going to stay that way,” said Boland. “I couldn’t teach myself college classes and stay afloat. I don’t know how other students are doing it.”
Former Resident Assistant (RA) at UWL, John Vue, decided to resign before the start of the fall semester after he said he was informed the dorms would be open at 100% occupancy.
“Two weeks before training I decided to resign because the Wisconsin Board Of Regents [BoR] and [UWL] had decided to open campus back up. From the information I was given, I thought that these dorms were going to be open at 100% occupancy,” said Vue. “Whether [UWL’s] occupancy was at full capacity or not, the clarification does not change my decision to resign and my perspective that opening campus back up, in general, is a mistake.”
UWL also faced the loss of a new possible professor at the start of the fall semester. The anonymous possible hire was to move internationally, but instead declined a position in the biology department, writing in an email to UWL, “My family and I have been talking lately through the risks of such a big international move during the pandemic. The way that the U.S. Federal Government is handling the crisis of the [COVID-19] pandemic, the troubled economy, the negative prospects for higher education, and the continual changing right of immigrants in the United States, are gravely concerning to us.”
While Vue and Boland didn’t entirely agree on the decision to re-open, they both recognize their privilege and understand every student’s situation is unique.
“As much as I was against campus opening back up, I know that there are a couple of students and staff who need their jobs, room[s], and security on campus. Everyone has their own situation,” said Vue. “I am fortunate and privileged enough to live at home and not have the need to live on campus, work, [or] rely on [UWL’s] housing and meal plan, others do.”
“I am lucky to have an apartment and job here in La Crosse that I can fall back on, not everyone has that,” said Boland.
On Sept. 22, Gov. Tony Evers extended the Wisconsin mask mandate to Nov. 21, 2020. A recent surge in COVID-19 cases within Wisconsin corresponds to college students moving back to campuses with people ages 18 to 24 years old having infectious case rates five times higher than any other age group.
“As we have seen, things aren’t going well, and I hope that every one social [distances] and keep[s] the community safe,” said Vue. “From the trends we have seen with college students, I’m not sure if this will happen.”
“I plan to go back to school when classes are back face-to-face, but who knows when that will be,” said Boland. “I’m a hands-on learner and this semester just wasn’t working for me, I’ll go back when things aren’t so chaotic.”
Vue and Boland both said they hope fellow students put their personal needs first during this time.
“My message to students and staff is to put yourself and your needs first. This might be living on campus, [or] maybe this means moving away from campus if you’re able to,” said Vue. “At this point, this is something that is beyond our control since no one can control the behavior of another person.”
“I hope students take care of themselves,” said Boland. “This is a really hard time and it is okay to put yourself first. Do the things you need to do to be happy, even if that means changing your entire plan.”