Seton Hall announced on March 18 that students will continue remote learning for the rest of the Spring 2020 semester in response to the growing threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This decision comes just over a week after the University’s initial announcement that classes would be conducted online through March 22.
In the latest email from the University, it was also announced that the 2020 Baccalaureate Commencement ceremony, as well as graduate and law school graduation ceremonies, have been postponed, that resident students remaining in dorms and University-owned off-campus apartments must move out by March 21 and that the Board of Regents voted unanimously to issue pro-rated refunds or credits for room, board and parking fees.
While it is unclear where and when the undergraduate commencement ceremony will occur, Interim Provost Karen Boroff confirmed that a commencement committee, which includes many students, is “working now to plan our future commencement for our 2020 graduating students.” Boroff said that given the unknown nature of COVID-19’s trajectory, several possible dates may have to be considered.
Several Seton Hall students spoke to The Setonian about how they’re feeling in light of everything that was announced this week.
Ali Aljarrah, a senior diplomacy and economics double major, said that he feels like someone has “punched him in the gut.”
“It’s surreal to think that last Tuesday was my last [in person] undergraduate class,” he said. “I really feel for my fellow seniors; these next couple months were supposed to be a great time celebrating our academic accomplishments, gearing up for our future endeavors and spending our last moments as students reflecting over our friendships, memories and growth.”
“Knowing that these moments were taken away because of a serious global crisis is completely understandable—but it does make you feel numb inside.”
Emma Murphy, a senior secondary education major, said that the abrupt end to her senior year stings, and that she feels shocked, disheartened and saddened.
“For me, the commencement ceremony is a rite of passage and signifies closure to our senior year and lives as undergraduates,” she said. “I think that is what seniors will miss most: closure. A lot of people won’t be able to find the closure necessary to truly say goodbye to our undergraduate experiences.”
Gregory Lobo, a senior history major, has spina bifida, a medical condition where the spinal cord fails to develop properly. Because of this, Lobo moves through life in a wheelchair. For him, graduation signifies much more than just the end of college. He says that for as long as he can remember, he’s been expected to be a kind of inspiration to those with his condition.
“I’ve always been expected to prove people wrong, because it’s harder for people like me,” he said. “I’ve always been given that responsibility, and it’s hard. I’ve always had to show people, not just for me, or for my family, but for every kid like me and for every family like mine.”
Lobo said that graduation being postponed is “devastating.”
“I feel like even though it’s not my fault, I’m letting people down,” he said. “I feel like I’m not accomplishing what I was always told I needed to do.”
Joshua Steier, a graduate student earning his master’s degree in physics, is a teacher’s assistant and attended the University as an undergraduate. He says that this whole situation has him “deeply saddened.”
“What saddens me most is that my students and I always take a group photo at the end of the semester, which we won’t be able to do this time around due to the situation on campus.”
Melinda Primorac, a sophomore theatre, political science and philosophy triple major, said that though she is not graduating, she is sad that she won’t be able to give her senior friends a proper goodbye.
“It has been very bittersweet for me,” she said. “I have many friends who are seniors and it breaks my heart that this is how their college experience ends and that I unknowingly performed with them for the last time.”
Primorac did say that, in a way, watching her senior friends go through this difficult time has inspired her to come back for the fall semester and make the most of her two years she has left at Seton Hall.
“Seton Hall has given me some of my best friends, experiences and memories and I am beyond grateful for that,” she said. “Although the academic year has been cut short, I’m reminding myself that I’m incredibly lucky to have a place and people that made it so hard to leave.”
Kortnie Downie, a senior theatre major, said that while she is upset she won’t be able to finish her last semester of college on her own terms, part of her is relieved that a final decision was made.
“Seeing the life on campus slowly die out over these past few days has seriously messed with my head,” she said. She did say, however, that she’s happy to be going home to her family and dogs, and that she has to try to remain positive.
“Just because the world is panicking and pausing doesn’t mean the seniors’ stories are done,” she said. “We’re only just getting started.”
Isabel Soisson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find her on Twitter @IsabelSoisson.