Amidst the recent outbreak of the coronavirus (Covid-19), schools and colleges across the nation have sweepingly taken unprecedented actions to protect its students and prevent the spreading of the disease.
In response to the pandemic locally, member institutions of Atlanta University Center, including Morehouse College, Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University, have followed suit in taking the necessary precautions by suspending onsite classes for the remainder of the spring semester amongst other changes.
Spring break has been extended for one week, students must evacuate their dorms and are required to shift finish their current-term academic coursework online. And, as what is becoming a trend nationwide, commencement ceremonies for all three institutions have been either canceled or postponed indefinitely.
Spelman issued a statement via social media that its leadership is considering conducting a virtual commencement or postponing the ceremony off until a later date.
Changes like these have seriously impacted the lives of many AUC students.
Kyrie Blackman, a graduating senior and sociology major at Morehouse, attested to how the disease has now affected his life.
“The coronavirus abruptly halted my life,” Blackman said. “Not only that but it robbed me of the rest of my senior year and possibly my graduation. I and other seniors throughout America have been thrust into the real world without the certainty of opportunity within this pandemic.”
Blackman is employed by the federal work-study program that allows students to earn money by working on campus. He had used that money to be able to eat and pay his off-campus rent every month but because of this pandemic, he doesn’t know how he will now obtain any funds to survive.
Additionally, the L.A. native has been further impacted by the coronavirus as an out-of-state student.
“Having an apartment as off-campus housing makes it difficult to just go back home to my family so I’m forced to stay in Georgia with my roommates,” he explained. “As we prepare ourselves moving forward we somewhat have to ignore the feelings stemming from the loss of our senior year and continue to protect ourselves and others.”
Officials at Morehouse have asked students like Blackman to be understanding of the difficult choices that had to be made this semester.
“As Chair of the Emergency Management Team (EMT) at the College, I wanted to thank you for your understanding and cooperation with all of the changes we’ve had to implement over the last several days to protect the safety of everyone at Morehouse in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic,” said Maurice Washington on Tuesday in a statement to the Morehouse community.
Morehouse’s EMT has created a “Student Emergency Assistance Fund” to financially assist Blackman and others during this time of hardship. An application form in order for students to express their needs and request a dollar amount was emailed to the campus community the same day.
Spelman and Clark Atlanta have also established student emergency funds for alumni and others to donate to. The funds are being gathered to assist students with temporary housing, travel expenses to return home, addressing technology needs, food insecurity and other urgent matters created by the abrupt closures.
“Unfortunately, these decisions have caused many of the students we serve financial hardship and unforeseen challenges,” CAU President Dr. George T. French said in a statement on Saturday. “The Office of Financial Aid has created a hardship application for those with immediate needs. Students will receive more information as details for the application process are finalized by the financial aid office.”
Initially, Morehouse students were mandated to move out of their dorms by March 21; however, as of Monday, the EMT decided to accelerate the check-out timeline for campus residents to vacate by Wednesday, March 18, at noon.
Students who haven’t made the arrangements to retrieve personal items from their dorms by the mentioned deadline have been urged to not return to the campus, Washington said.
The deadline for Spelman students to move out of their residential facilities has been set for March 21 at 9 p.m. with remote learning for all AUC institutions will begin on Monday, March 23.
Currently, there are no suspected cases of COVID-19 in the AUC and students have been advised to practice social distancing.