At long last, GW is back. After two and a half virtual semesters, precedented times are coming into view. But although we’re back on campus, we’re not all the way back to normal. Readjusting to college life with the effects of the pandemic still in the backdrop is going to be a challenge for everybody. The entire GW community – from administrators to faculty to student organizations to the student body – must make a conscious effort to look out for one another as we all transition back to an in-person GW experience.
Administrators have made some positive steps in easing the adjustment back to campus, especially for freshmen and sophomores who have only known GW in an online setting. From welcome events to partnering with student organizations to scrupulously communicating every step of the reopening process, these efforts have been helpful and in good faith. Officials have also pointed to resources like counseling through the Colonial Health Center as an option for the many students whose mental health has suffered during the pandemic. GW has been effective at publicizing these resources in emails to students and on social media, but the University should go a step further and bolster the counseling opportunities available through CHC.
Increasing the number of counselors available would allow students to regularly see GW’s counselors for more than a handful of sessions without being referred to someone else. The pandemic has been an incredibly difficult time for students’ mental and emotional wellbeing and ensuring that the community has adequate resources would be an important way for the University to ease the gradual tradition back to normalcy.
Just because in-person classes have resumed does not mean everybody is exactly as they were before March 2020. Professors should remain understanding and accommodating – after taking a year’s worth of Zoom classes in the middle of an all-consuming pandemic, students are not necessarily going to snap right back to being used to normal in-person learning. The stress of the past year and a half is not simply going to dissipate overnight now that campus has reopened. Students’ anxiety over the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones will persist and having to essentially learn how to be a college student again is not like flicking a switch. Taking steps as simple as being lenient with deadlines or attendance policies and would make a big difference in students’ adjustment to campus life.
In a normal year, freshmen would have also had the chance to rely on the three classes of students above them for any guidance they might need. But this year, only two classes have been on campus before the pandemic and one of them was not even on campus for a full academic year. Hence, upperclassmen, in particular, should look out for students who seem to be lost, be open to questions from freshmen who approach them or organize study groups that might help them in classes.
Every one of us has been impacted by the pandemic in ways tangible and intangible. Upperclassmen, student leaders and clubs as a whole should pitch in to help students who are new to campus – both the freshman and the sophomore classes this year – feel welcome and at ease. Student organizations are one of the primary ways that students find their place at GW, so those who lead these organizations will be in a position to really help students who are finding their way on campus. Putting in the extra effort – whether it’s holding events, setting up a GroupMe, or even just reaching out to the person who doesn’t know anyone yet – can make a world of difference for those trying to find their place at GW.
Finally, it’s going to be on all of us generally to look out for one another and be patient with one another. Administrators, professors and student organizations have their important roles to play, but ultimately, building a welcoming GW community is every single person’s responsibility. Nobody is back to normal yet, even though we’re physically together once again. COVID-19 restrictions may be receding, but the pandemic has affected each and every one of us in ways large and small. Everybody is going to be dealing with something that they weren’t dealing with a year and a half ago, even if it isn’t outwardly obvious. Being kind, welcoming and generous to those around you is always important – but especially so right now. If we all help each other, we can make our first in-person semester in a year and a half well worth the wait.
The editorial board consists of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s staff editorial was written by opinions editor Andrew Sugrue and contributing opinions editor Shreeya Aranake, based on discussions with culture editor Anna Boone, contributing sports editor Nuria Diaz, design editor Grace Miller, copy editor Jaden DiMauro and assistant copy editor Karina Ochoa Berkley.