In late July, President Kathleen Harring sent an email to the Muhlenberg community announcing that the majority of the student population would be studying remotely in the fall, with mainly first-year students being on campus. This announcement meant that first-year students would be facing a unique semester, unlike any ever seen before.
Students in the class of 2024 shared excitement at the news they would be coming to campus, but this feeling was also accompanied with fear and frustration about whether COVID-19 precautions were being taken seriously. Marissa Scharf ‘24 says, “I was very excited to find out that we would be on campus, but I was also quite nervous. I know all of the health protocols and safety measures are in place, but that doesn’t necessarily mean people will follow them… As much as I want to trust everybody around me, I feel very nervous knowing that other people aren’t being as careful as I am. But overall, I’m very grateful to be here.”
“As much as I want to trust everybody around me, I feel very nervous knowing that other people aren’t being as careful as I am.”
Precautions currently in place include a phased plan detailing who is allowed in residence halls, plexiglass screens between all of the seats in the dining hall and mandatory mask wearing at all times except in one’s own room. The College has performed 241 coronavirus tests, and thus far only one positive case has been reported on Muhlenberg’s COVID-19 dashboard.
Students expressed normal first-year feelings as well, like the newfound sense of independence that comes with being a college freshmen. Oyinkansola Adebajo ‘24 says, “Being on campus [is] a bit weird but I’m getting used to it… For the most part everyone is following social distancing guidelines, so I’m not too concerned. It’s a bit overwhelming because no one is telling you what to do, the bell doesn’t ring at the end of class or at the beginning, the bell just rings at the beginning of the hour instead.”
Some students felt they were at a loss without the presence of upperclassmen to help facilitate clubs and organizations and serve as mentors. Melanie Halbert ‘24 explains, “I’m very grateful to be on campus… I love all my classes and all my teachers, and while it isn’t ideal I’m just so happy to be here, but I really wish my upperclassmen were here so they could guide me through.”
“There’s been a lot of ups and downs,” says Julianne Lucas ‘24. “It’s frustrating when I see people not following rules but… they just gave us a new form we can fill out to report those kinds of incidents, so I’m really hoping that helps and that people start paying attention and realizing how many people their actions affect.”
“I’M REALLY HOPING THAT HELPS AND THAT PEOPLE START PAYING ATTENTION AND REALIZING HOW MANY PEOPLE THEIR ACTIONS AFFECT.”
Overall, students seem cautiously optimistic about being on campus. Shira Holtz ‘24 says, “I was really excited to find out that we were going to be on campus because I’ve been looking forward to coming to college for a really long time… It’s definitely nerve-wracking to be in such a different environment, even more different than it normally would be. Especially since not everyone seems to be following the rules, although it does seem to get better every day.”