Co-eds attending classes at member institutions of the Atlanta University Center have been forced to figure out life a bit sooner than expected since the spread of the coronavirus disease has resulted in the abrupt suspension of the spring 2020 semester.

Less than two weeks ago, the group of historically Black higher education institutions announced that in-person classes were canceled, effective immediately — transitioning remaining courses to online learning and instructed students to vacate their campus residencies. 

Further, the Spring commencement ceremonies many seniors were looking forward to have now been suspended or canceled indefinitely.

Alexis Smith, a senior psychology major at Spelman College from Chicago, was looking forward to the festivities surrounding the success of her hard work and final year in college. Regrettably, those events won’t be taking place at this time.

“The coronavirus has turned my final spring semester into a nightmare that I wish I could wake up from,” Smith said. “My spring semester was supposed to be full of final classes, senior week and graduation but none of that is happening. To add on, there is no definite date for graduation either.”

The aspiring clinical child psychologist has decided to remain in Atlanta and not return home, which had been her plan all along. Consequently, she indicated how this pandemic has also expedited her process of finding post-grad arrangements.

Spelman’s exact graduation date for the 2019-20 class is to be announced.

Last week Spelman announced that they were considering having a virtual commencement. However, Spelmanites quickly responded with their difference in opinions of wanting a traditional ceremony.

“Friends, we have heard from you and the message is clear,” Spelman President Mary S. Campbell said in a statement. “Your preference is an in-person ceremony for commencement. In the coming weeks, we will explore when that date might be.”

Smith said her motivation to finish the spring semester strong and walking the stage has now been replaced by an uphill battle to complete her online coursework.

“A major fuel to my fire for Spring semester was anticipating graduation and now that it has been postponed it’ll be a big push to finish these online classes,” she explained. “The coronavirus has turned this semester from being rewarding and fun to something that I wish would just end already.”

Julian Hemmings, a Morehouse College senior and English major from the Bronx, wasn’t thrilled about having to quickly vacate the campus. He, like other students, are having to adjust to the idea of remote learning and virtually complete assignments.

“Due to the coronavirus, I threw away all of my articles of clothing and trophies and took a flight back home to New York City, the epicenter of the virus,” Hemmings said. “I left Morehouse quickly because I feared flight prices increasing to an exorbitant rate, my city shutting down because of the rate at which the disease is spreading.”

“I also have to complete my last year at Morehouse on my laptop,” Hemmings added.

There are many challenges students may face when switching to remote learning such as having internet access and simply possessing an adequate technological device. 

There are also challenges for professors — for example, those who traditionally instruct students without the use of technology and may lack the basic knowledge and skills to navigate a computer.

Fortunately, for Hemmings, network connection won’t be an issue. When asked if he has internet access at home he responded, “Thank God I do!”

Morehouse senior Dacavien Reeves, a business administration major from Memphis, was recently featured on “Good Morning America” where he shared his story of overcoming homelessness to getting accepted to Morehouse to now accepting a business management analyst position at JP Morgan Chase & Co. after graduation.

“Coronavirus has affected me by abruptly ending my semester without saying goodbye to everyone,” Reeves said. “This was my last time interacting with students in the AUC.” 

He explained how having to move out all of his belongings from his dorm room to his grandparents’ home in Virginia in under a day was a very tedious process. Additionally, Reeves shared how the postponement of graduation already conflicts with his future employment.

“My commencement ceremony has been moved to the end of the year so I would have to take off work just to walk across the stage.”

Morehouse’s new tentative commencement date is now scheduled for Dec. 11-13.

Seemingly, a common theme among students regardless of their respective classifications is having to shift from in-person classes to remote learning. 

The three institutions already utilize online portals for students to submit assignments and check their grades. Now, professors must virtually conduct their teachings. 

Tiesha Tucker, a Clark Atlanta junior from South Carolina, said that while living off-campus has worked in her favor considering she didn’t have to abruptly move out from campus housing, she still feels pressure to adjust and accustom herself to remote learning like every other student.

“The coronavirus has affected my spring semester tremendously,” Tucker exclaimed. “I am not one to prefer online teaching, so having to switch to that without a choice is very frustrating.”

Kyrie Blackman, graduating senior, sociology major at Morehouse College from Los Angeles, Ca. (Alton Pitre/The Atlanta Voice)

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