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COVID-19

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MIT student blogger Shuli J. '22

what’s happening on campus by Shuli J. '22

tl;dr packing up & freaking out

Yesterday afternoon, President Reif announced that MIT undergraduates will not be allowed to return to campus after Spring Break. Classes are continuing this week; classes next week are cancelled; classes after spring break will all be online. We’ve been instructed to move out, packing as if we aren’t coming back until the fall, by this upcoming Tuesday, March 17th.

I typically try to keep swearing to a minimum on the blogs, but I think I speak for every undergraduate when I say: holy fuck

The decision is completely understandable, considering that coronavirus cases are increasing exponentially in MA every day (not hyperbole: the numbers literally follow the path of an exponential function, info here) and research into the 1918 flu epidemic suggests that closing schools and cancelling large events helped prevent its spread. In a situation like this, even the “best” actions to take from a health standpoint can still be extremely difficult. And yet this throws a wrench into so many things — into everything, small and large.

All large events planned to be held on campus through May 15th are cancelled, including concerts and shows into which people had already put enormous amounts of time and effort. All the national competitions that are typically held in spring; ring delivery; senior class events.01 According to President Reif's announcement on 3/10, 'No decision has yet been made about this year’s Commencement ceremonies.' There are so many people here whom I love, and whom I have no clue when I will see again. There’s barely any time for real goodbyes, for send-off parties, for thank-you cards, for savouring the moment…

Even at the best of times, when you’re not frantically trying to say a too-early goodbye to your friends and pick up the pieces of your cancelled events, moving out is an incredibly stressful process. We are still figuring out how storage will work, when usually boxes are ordered and storage containers are booked weeks (or months) in advance. Many of us, especially in EC, are very worried about our stuff:02 Of course, 'stuff' is not as important as people's lives and health. But many of my items are sentimental, important, and/or expensive (and, to be honest, I think that many of us are so stressed about the big stuff that the little stuff is just that much harder to take). what we can store, what we can take home, and what falls in between.

And yet, while I stress about what I can and can’t take home, other people are stressed about going home itself. President Reif’s letter says that students will be able to petition to remain on campus (particularly international students who have visa issues, whose home countries are hard hit by the virus, or those who otherwise do not have a home that is safe to go to). And MIT has offered financial assistance with travel (although details are still forthcoming, which, while totally understandable, also unfortunately makes it more difficult for students to make plans). But even so, MIT is home to us, and I am worried about all the people whose whose parents/regions are inhospitable to their wellbeing (e.g. homophobic), as well as those who are concerned about bringing the virus back with them and infecting their parents or other older family members who are most at risk.

So, to sum up…

People are freaking the fuck out. The atmosphere on campus is unlike any I’ve ever seen before. We are depressed and anxious and terrified, and it feels almost unreal. Who could have predicted that something like this would happen? How can we believe that it is occurring?

But we are also trying to find joy where we can. Spending time with our friends, making our last memories… People are gathering in groups everywhere to talk and scream and stand in silence.

There was a party on Killian yesterday that got a little bit out of hand. You might have seen pictures, but if not, here you go. I think it represents very well how we are all feeling about things. This is going to be the defining picture of this school year, for certain:

Killian Court as viewed from Lobby 10. In the bottom foreground are lots of students. The center of the photo is the tall Purell dispenser one student is holding high.

Killian Court as viewed from Lobby 10. Many students have gathered; one is holding a Purell dispenser high. It is one of the dispensers that have appeared everywhere on campus over the past two weeks.

Credit for this incredible photo goes to Zidane A. 20’.

And here is a video from @MITstudents’ instagram. (For context: “cathartic screaming” is a popular tradition at MIT, often heard on campus the day before classes or finals start. Lydia mentioned it once.)

One last thing I want to say is that, as always, it is in bad times that we truly see the strength of our community. So many MIT staff and alumni have reached out to help, and their efforts have been organized incredibly fast. If any student is struggling and feels like they cannot surmount their obstacles themselves — please reach out, and we can connect you to someone who can help. And, from the students, thank you to everyone who is helping us now.

 

Note: I barely edited this blog post at all, as, like the rest of the student body, I am also currently freaking out in every possible way right now. I don’t mean to speak for every single student and I’m sure that, as things calm down somewhat, we will be able to share more people’s perspectives on the blogs. I also want to acknowledge that similar situations are occurring at many universities, and that there are far more serious situations happening as well. I hope that everyone can stay safe and well. <3

  1. According to President Reif's announcement on 3/10, 'No decision has yet been made about this year’s Commencement ceremonies. back to text
  2. Of course, 'stuff' is not as important as people's lives and health. But many of my items are sentimental, important, and/or expensive (and, to be honest, I think that many of us are so stressed about the big stuff that the little stuff is just that much harder to take). back to text