On Tuesday, March 11, Keene State College President Melinda Treadwell sent out an email saying that due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak, Keene State students would be doing remote learning for the first two weeks after spring break. She also said that any students going to high-risk areas should stay off campus for these two weeks while any students who had not gone to these areas would be welcome back to campus immediately after spring break.
When I first heard this announcement, I was overjoyed that my semester was not coming to a premature end. I did not yet understand the full scope of the outbreak so I believed that many schools canceling the rest of their semesters was an overreaction. I believed that Keene State made the most logical choice by allowing the students to come back who didn’t put themselves at risk and just wanted to see their families over the break. Sadly though, in these times, a week can make all the difference.
One week later, on March 18, President Treadwell sent out another email saying that a member of our staff had tested positive for the virus and announced that Keene State would be under “extended curtailment,” meaning that students would not be able to return to campus at the previously established date. One day later, Treadwell sent out another email saying that Keene State would be moving to remote learning and students would not be able to return for the rest of the semester.
After hearing this news, I was deeply saddened for many reasons. This includes missing out on half a semester worth of memories, having added complications to some of my classes that remote learning doesn’t lend itself to as well and most of all not being able to properly say goodbye to my friends. Before March 10 when repeated news continued to come out about this virus, the idea of not being able to come back after spring break hadn’t entered my mind once. Maybe it’s my fault for not educating myself properly or maybe this virus just works that fast, but all I can really say is this absolutely came out of nowhere for me.
All of this is not to say that I think President Treadwell and the rest of Keene State handled the situation poorly, because I think they handled it in an incredibly admirable way and did what they had to do. One thing that I can appreciate is the fact that you can tell the administration was truly doing all that they could to keep this semester going for us. They know how much the college experience means to their students so, while other schools were already canceling their semester, Keene State was trying to come up with other solutions.
In the past, I have also gotten upset with the school about a lack of transparency involving certain things, but I must say that the school was completely communicative every step of the way through this process. This includes giving us a forum to ask our questions with the virtual town hall as well as almost immediately alleviating one of our biggest concerns, which is getting refunds for housing and meal plans.
One thing I must say though is how truly sorry I feel for our senior students, and I know I would be utterly heartbroken if I was in their position. If there’s one more thing of the utmost importance that the school needs to do, I strongly believe they need to do right by the class of 2020. If it means pushing back commencement, then so be it. If these students cannot properly enjoy their final semester, then the least we can do for them is give them a proper sendoff whenever we can. I say this as somebody who has plenty of friends in the senior class and nothing about this situation feels right. I want to be able to say goodbye to these people that I’ve gotten to know so well in the best way possible. Through all of this struggle, I can certainly say the senior class has earned more than a mail diploma.
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Cristian Valentin can be contacted at