Campus magazine examines the year of COVID
MIDDLEBURY — The cover of a March 10 special magazine, “A Year In,” published by the Middlebury College student newspaper, The Campus, says it all:
“A year ago today, Middlebury students got a piece of news that would define a generation. One year later, The Campus asks the question: What has changed?”
On March 10, 2020, the college announced it would discontinue in-person classes because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students were given a few days to pack up their belongings and leave campus. The period has come to be known as March Madness or The Great Evacuation, and it has left an indelible mark on the student body.
Campus staff, under the direction of magazine editor Riley Board, explore this and other aspects of a year of COVID.
“The Campus has not produced a print publication in a year,” Board writes in her editor’s note. “What we have instead for you is this. A magazine, unprecedented in modern Campus history, that brings you 120 pages about the most complicated, challenging and unusual 365 days that we have lived through. From the day we learned that we would be (boxing, labeling and) leaving this school early, through 12 months of online classes, quarantines, social distancing, isolation, loss, love, discovery and more than I could ever list, we’ve been reporting and paying attention.”
“A Year In” features several Campus articles that originally appeared online, plus essays and letters, photographs and art, and student survey data. Highlights include:
• an article about college carillonneur George Matthew Jr., who during The Great Evacuation played the carillon for several hours a day while students prepared to leave campus, interspersing Bach with the college’s alma mater.
• a list of things students left behind in their dorm rooms, including a small succulent plant named Cassie, a stuffed animal named Avocado and a tiny bag of saffron purchased in Morocco during study-abroad and saved for a special occasion.
• The theater department’s costume shop sewed 400-600 masks per week for Porter Medical Center workers and for students remaining on campus.
• The student government association gave the college administration $200,000 of its reserve funds to support college staff members, and another $100,000 for the Student Emergency Fund.
• Soon after the evacuation, the Campus launched the “Off-Campus Project” “in hopes of giving voice to despair and hope precipitated by the interruption of campus life.”
• A survey indicated 64% of students were suffering from mental-health challenges after March 10.
• While studying remotely, students reported reading Ta-Nahisi Coates and Joan Didion, and they watched “Derry Girls” and “The Great British Baking Show.”
• The college’s organic garden, The Knoll, became a refuge for the college community, as well as a source of emergency food and employment.
• A new column, “Mask Off, Midd,” explored COVID-era romance at Middlebury.
• More than 100 students who answered a Campus spring 2020 survey said the need to make money while at home was somewhat of an obstacle to learning.
• “Being home means that I have to step up in my family, and that involves home-schooling and helping raise an 11-year-old girl and a six-year-old boy,” one student wrote. “It has also meant caring for my father who has early-onset Alzheimer’s. The playing field is extremely unequal when school is remote.”
• 34 students in that survey reported having no home at all.
• In May and June, students participated in vigils and protested the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.
• Over the summer, a new college web page, “Midd Missed Connections,” gave students a chance to wax anonymously about their crushes, a tradition that’s usually pursued via one of the campus’s dining hall bulletin boards.
• In September students protested in Middlebury when a grand jury failed to charge the Kentucky police officers who shot Breonna Taylor to death.
• At the same time, students urged the college to take concrete steps on campus to combat racism.
• The percentage of students who said they suffered from mental-health challenges rose to 76.
• During the fall 2020 semester on campus, the college administered 13,699 COVID-19 tests. Five students tested positive and all eventually recovered.
• Also in the fall: 108 students were disciplined for violating college health protocols, and 29 were removed from campus.
• On Nov. 14: 2020 Senior Febs held a hastily planned commencement outdoors, a week ahead of schedule, because of new social gathering restrictions announced by Gov. Scott.
• After the semester was over, 354 Middlebury students (64% of respondents) reported in a survey that they had broken campus COVID rules, including exceeding room capacity, participating in gatherings with more than 10 people, and leaving Addison County.
• Emily Ballou profiled college horticulturalist Tim Parsons, who through social media kept absent students up to date on the campus landscape.
• The final section, “A Year in Being Apart Together,” includes thoughtful essays, articles and letters about a variety of subjects: haunting the empty streets of Toronto, having a physician parent working on the frontlines, the sudden weirdness of a world without sports, “home” forever redefined, the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, systemic racism and police brutality, being Black in America, a romantic relationship interrupted by COVID, post-break-up growth, dating in the time of COVID, negotiating solitude, isolation as a COVID-positive student on campus, COVID’s effect on our twisted obsession with weight, protecting the town of Middlebury from COVID, arts/culture reviews, and life as a journalist in Alaska.
Current Campus Editor in Chief Bochu Ding opens his concluding note with three COVID buzzwords — unprecedented, challenging, uncertain — but urges readers to consider others as they move forward.
“As we approach what seems to be the light at the end of the tunnel, we should also remember some of the other words that rose to prominence in the past year: change, commitment and justice. These words remind us of the collective actions we took to keep each other safe and our dedication to kinder, more equitable communities. As we venture into our ‘new normal,’ let’s not leave them behind.”
“A Year In” is available online at https://tinyurl.com/5by8kjym.
Reach Christopher Ross [email protected].
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