Students have a right to be disappointed about the online spring semester

Over Fall Break, we got the notification that we all knew was coming: Classes will be online once again in the spring.

Emotions from the GW community have been mixed, with some students expressing grief, anger and bleak resignation. Students are questioning the decision to cancel commencement events this far in advance, whether or not residence halls will be open and what college will look like in a third pandemic semester. They are posting and petitioning for changes, like a chance at coming back to campus this spring.

Meanwhile, other students are blasting their peers for their grief, calling upset students “selfish” or “spoiled.” Conversations have broken out on social media, with many students expressing their sadness about the situation, while others are going as far as to suggest that students should not be upset because GW made the right decision. This sentiment is misguided. Students are trying to grab control of a situation that is completely out of their hands, and they have every right to do so.

The bottom line is that we all know the University made the right call to move online and consider halting in-person commencement events once again with a pandemic that is still raging. We know deep down that an in-person semester would be dangerous. We know officials are trying to accommodate the wants of both students and professors by offering one pass/fail course. But that does not mean students should happily accept a grim reality. We have every right to be upset that we have been dealt another crushing blow by the pandemic, and students should lend a hand to one another rather than try to be a voice of reason.

“From the abrupt cancellation of the past semester, to a lost summer, to a virtual fall semester, students have been made to run through the gauntlet because of the pandemic. Adding the double-whammy of a virtual spring and no Commencement just heaps more disappointment on top.”

Over the summer, the University’s final decision to close down campus came only weeks before students were slated to move in. Even though the wait was fully justified, it made it even more painful for students. In letting us know about the spring as early as possible, the University prevented students from getting their hopes up for naught.

The same holds true for Commencement. The Class of 2021 has been told since they stepped foot on campus that their Commencement, GW’s bicentennial, would be a special moment in the University’s history that they could celebrate. The health crisis is what made this promise impossible to keep, forcing the University to make yet another difficult call. Students in their final year at GW are rightfully upset, just like last year’s graduating class that got the brunt of the University’s pandemic response.

Planning for the University’s bicentennial has been years in the making and was supposed to be a point of pride for the University and its students. Canceling the yearlong ceremonies almost certainly was not taken lightly. Speakers and other logistics needed to be planned and paid for right away, so the University likely was not in a position to belabor making the call. This is fully justifiable and rational – but that does not in any way, shape or form invalidate what a letdown it is for students.

From the abrupt cancellation of the past semester, to a lost summer, to a virtual fall semester, students have been made to run through the gauntlet because of the pandemic. Adding the double-whammy of a virtual spring and no Commencement just heaps more disappointment on top. There is no reason why students should not be angry, sad and grieving about what they have needed to go through. So while students should acknowledge that the University made the right decision in this particular case, none of us should think or be made to think that our negative feelings about this situation are unjustified. Students shouldn’t pit themselves against each other and instead try to navigate this year together. We need to hear out each other’s complaints and try to understand where we are all coming from.

We have heard this time and time again, but we are all living in unprecedented and unpredictable times. We barely have control over the pandemic and its detrimental impact on our jobs, families, social connections and academic lives. We get it, coming back to campus in person is probably not safe, and students should not go out of their way to say that to their peers. But we must show compassion for one another and try to understand that every frustration is someone’s way of grieving, which they should not feel ashamed to do.

The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Hannah Thacker and contributing opinions editor Andrew Sugrue, based on discussions with managing director Kiran Hoeffner-Shah, managing editor Parth Kotak, sports editor Emily Maise, culture editor Anna Boone and design editor Olivia Columbus.

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