An open letter from a heartbroken senior: Cancel events and class, but don’t cancel hope
by Zach Beneke, '20
As I sit in my dorm room, for what may be my final fleeting moments of college, I’m beginning to think about just how much life has changed over the past week. The novel coronavirus has uprooted Americans’ daily lives. To avoid the spread of this highly contagious virus, states and businesses have started to shut down, pretty much all major sports leagues are suspended, and hundreds of schools are cancelled or moved online indefinitely. That last one has broken seniors’ hearts across the nation — including seniors at RMU.
This time last week, most colleges were either returning from or going on spring break. By now, many schools have preemptively cancelled a few days of class and moved classes online either through March or through the entire rest of the semester. Now, RMU and others are all but kicking us off campus. Schools like Slippery Rock and Penn State led the charge by extending their spring breaks, and others followed. Robert Morris seemed to be the last one, but that did not last long as they announced a move to online classes on the evening of March 11. Most facilities remained open — but on March 16, we got told to leave campus. Our hearts are broken.
It’s safe to say that most seniors are feeling the same way as me. We come into college looking for a new experience and to make memories that last a lifetime. Over three and a half years, this is a pretty simple feat for most to accomplish. But unfortunately, the last leg of the Class of 2020’s marathon has been cut short. This week, us seniors have seen everything get cancelled or closed, essentially wiping away the entire social aspect of college: community. From formals to sporting events to club-related activities, almost everything has been put on hold.
Most importantly, the bulk of where we spend our time in college has been taken from us. Classes going online completely changes what our educational platform has been for the past 15-plus years of our lives. While a few may support online learning, I completely oppose it for myself. However, I do believe that local governments and schools are doing what’s best for the safety and health of individuals. Even so, I cannot get behind this fully online switch. For one, many students enjoy a physical learning environment and desire personal interaction with instructors. Plus, students pay for these in-class courses. This just makes the last semester of our academic careers that much harder.
To add insult to injury, most of the social aspect of college is now put on hold as well. The past three and a half years, many of us have come to create bonds with others from all over the world that may have to be put on hold. Social distancing may help flatten the curve with this pandemic, but it also robs students of the best, final moments that we have looked forward to for months. No event should be held with more than 25 people, so sporting events and social organizations such as fraternities, sororities, and other clubs have taken a hit. This starts the domino effect. Most students are opting to move out and go home. This may be what hits seniors the hardest.
It definitely sucks that events have been cancelled, but what hurts the most is realizing that you’re seeing — or already have seen — your friends for what may be the last time. For seniors, it’s no more late-night Romo’s runs. No more Papa Sals. No more calves burning as you trek up the rotunda steps. No more Greek Week; no more Air Band; no more formals. No more sand volleyball. No more spontaneous grill sessions outside Washington. After March 16, it's probably no more Super Saturday.
This past week I have seen the disappointment across seniors’ faces. The uncertainty of what will happen in the next few weeks is a scary thing for us to look at. RMU isn't reopening. Whether or not other universities reopen, all seniors will have to move on with our lives and careers in what may be a sour ending.
While the current circumstances around the United States are uncertain, there is still light for us seniors. An organization at Robert Morris called THRIVE posted a quote to its social media this week that really stuck with me: “Conversations will not be cancelled. Relationships will not be cancelled. Songs will not be cancelled. Reading will not be cancelled. Self-care will not be cancelled. Hope will not be cancelled.”
The very last sentence should remain in every senior’s mind. They can cancel whatever they deem necessary, but they cannot cancel our hope. They cannot cancel our hope that, somehow, things will blow over and we will return to class. They cannot cancel our hope that we will make more memories with the people we’ve come to love over the past four years. They cannot cancel our hope that, somehow, we will get to walk across that stage in our caps and gowns. Most importantly, they cannot cancel the memories we have already made and will cherish for a lifetime. Our college career is not cancelled; it’s just on a temporary hold.
So, with that in mind, do not lose hope. In fact, all we can do right now is embrace this version of our lives. While this is a difficult time — really difficult — we are going through this together and we will get through it together. Seniors across the nation are in the same shoes as us. With your help and theirs, all we need is a little bit of hope.