F&M community work to maintain comradery during online-only semester

Screen capture of the new Virtual Quad.

By Katherine Coble || News Editor

With cases of COVID-19 surging across the country and Franklin & Marshall College moving to online-only instruction for the remainder of the semester, all members of the College community are working hard to maintain the F&Mily spirit. From academic support to mindfulness programs, the College is fighting to adapt to these new circumstances and help students through them. Other campus groups are trying their best to maintain a sense of community even when they cannot be together physically. 

On the academic front, the College has adjusted its Pass/No Pass regulations to be more flexible. Students now have until April 24 to opt to take a class Pass/No Pass. They can use the P/NP option for classes within their major, minor, or for general education credits—another adjustment from typical policy. This is meant to take pressure off students who might be struggling with caretaking, inadequate technology, or other issues during these extenuating circumstances. Amy Faust, the Learning Specialist at the Office of Student Affairs, has been regularly emailing students with reminders that academic support is still available for students who need it, including those with accomodations. New resources for online academic success have been added to the F&M website, including advice on motivation and time management. Additionally, both the Quantitative & Science Center and the Writing Center are hosting virtual appointments for students who need help with anything from math problems to their latest essay. All of these resources are meant to help students as they adjust to a brand-new learning environment most were not prepared for when the semester began. 

Wellness and mindfulness programs, too, have not ceased despite their new virtual formatting. There are drop-in mindfulness sessions on Google Hangout three times a week including yoga and meditation. The Office of Student Wellness Education and Violence Prevention has prepared a full slate of programming for Sexual Assault Awareness Month this April and offers live chats with a Peer Health Educator twice a week. The Student Wellness Center is still open for students remaining on-campus, although they request that students call ahead before coming in, and students can also schedule virtual meetings with Counseling Services if need be. In an email sent to the student body on April 10, Dr. Amy Meyers confirmed that there are no “positive or suspected COVID positive students on campus,” but the Wellness Center is still passionate about serving students’ physical and psychological needs during this time. 

Although extra-curricular activities cannot be fully replicated in the online format, the Office of Student Engagement & Leadership (OSEL) is still operating virtual programming for students. Their brand-new “Virtual Quad” offers a plethora of resources, dubbing itself “Online Activities & Programming for a Dispersed Campus Community.” These include weekly trivia nights on Tuesday, online access to the collection of the Phillips Museum, and a “virtual” 5k coordinated by the Student Athlete Leadership Council. The Library is streaming new films every Wednesday, and their online resources are still fully available for students to access. Some clubs are hosting virtual events through Zoom and other platforms, while the Alice Drum Women’s Center has adjusted to online programming and will be releasing the “F&Minist Dispatch” every Friday with feminist media, art, and insights. Students are encouraged to email suggestions for the Virtual Quad to Tim Brixius, the College’s Digital & Social Media Strategist. 

Although nothing can replace the true energy of F&M’s campus while students are away and struggling to cope with a new reality, both the administration and the student body appear to be working hard to replicate that sense of community in the virtual space. Now, more than ever, the F&M community is showing itself strength in spite of uniquely difficult circumstances.

Senior Katherine Coble is the news editor. Her email is kcoble@fandm.edu.

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