Sandvigen: OSU has maintained as much normalcy as it can throughout the pandemic

The Memorial Union building is located at the heart of Oregon State University’s Corvallis, Ore. campus.

Zoë Sandvigen, Columnist

Editor’s Note: This column does not represent the opinion of The Daily Barometer. This column reflects the personal opinions of the writer.

Many schools around the country have chosen to handle the pandemic differently depending on each state’s individual COVID-19 guidelines.  

Oregon State University and University of Oregon, for example, both have handled the pandemic in similar ways, yet all students have endured the closures of college campuses differently. 

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Business closures, a health care crisis, social upheaval and political turmoil are only a few of the issues that have affected people all around the country and the world. For college students, campus closures have resulted in almost a year of online instruction and a world where it is recommended to not have social interactions in large groups.

We are now in the 11th month of the COVID-19 pandemic. What seemed like a temporary hiatus last March has turned into a now seemingly endless reality. 

As a student at OSU, I believe the university has handled the pandemic with caution. Starting finals week of winter term last year, classes switched to remote instruction and continue to stay that way for the time being. For a student who took summer classes like myself, winter term will mark an entire academic year’s worth of classes done online. 

There are questions that have come up since last March about how effective online learning has been. Since class instruction is now in an online format rather than in-person, is it still effectively getting students all of the information they need to be successful? There is also the question of what the trade off is between being safe and lowering the risk of catching or spreading the coronavirus and not getting the same level of in-person, hands-on education students are all paying for.

The answers to these questions involve a variety of factors, none of which I can speak on for sure, although I believe OSU’s community has maintained a level of normalcy as best as it can. 

Dixon Recreation Center, located on the Corvallis campus of OSU, attempts to stay open as best they can, despite risks for students and staff. The risk level is similar for the surrounding Intramural Fields, but being outdoors lowers the risk of spreading COVID-19, versus being in an indoor environment.

There is something comforting about riding your bike through campus and seeing students playing soccer, frisbee or running laps. Things as menial as this can suddenly bring joy, coming from a student who misses what on-campus life used to look like. 

As for the other public universities in the state of Oregon, Noah Tigner, a senior at UO, gives some insight on how life in Eugene has looked.

“There was a lot of controversy at the beginning of the year due to them saying freshmen would still be required to live in the dorms,” Tigner said. 

According to Tigner, UO changed this requirement, as well as setting up a residence hall specifically for students who were exposed to COVID-19 and needed a place to safely quarantine. 

Like UO, OSU has residence halls set aside for students who need to quarantine after exposure to the virus. 

Tigner also specified that similar to OSU, the dining halls and libraries are taking social distancing very seriously. Masks are required even when walking outside on campus. 

“The issue is what happens off-campus,” Tigner said. “I live on sorority row and I can tell you that Greek life is still throwing huge parties and UO has no teeth to do anything about it —although that’s probably not unique to UO.” 

I have seen large parties still being thrown in Corvallis, some related to Greek life, some not. Although most students are following the guidelines regarding COVID-19 set in place by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority, there are still those who have not been following the rules as closely, and gathering in large numbers despite the risk of catching and spreading COVID-19. 

Lauren Lippman, a chemical engineering student at OSU, said she believes the COVID-19 regulations put in place by the university have been going well. 

“OSU has kept its priorities straight which makes it much easier to keep my priorities straight too,” Lippman said. “I’m not worried about my degree progress being impacted, and all my professors have made it clear that they are willing to be flexible as long as we’re willing to communicate.”

Lippman believes students have been able to adjust quickly and, at least for engineering, closed-note exams have been notoriously difficult, so professors making the decision to switch to open-note exams and projects has been a welcomed change. 

Looking to the future, Lippman would love to see a more asynchronous virtual community. 

“I like the idea of a virtual cookbook where people could submit their own recipes, videos or a daily crossword or sudoku where the people who finish first win a prize. I miss big events, so any safer replacement for those which doesn’t involve zoom calls would be lovely,” Lippman said. 

COVID-19 has impacted most students in similar ways; they are trying their best to maintain a healthy social life and keep up with online classes, while also social distancing and wearing a mask when necessary. 

Personally, I still enjoy going out to local restaurants and bars when I can. Even if I am social distancing while doing so, there’s still an elevated risk to being out with other people who do not live in the same household. 

I like to believe we’re all doing the best we can with what we’ve got. These times are unlike any other we have lived through and everyone has different ways of finding small pieces of normalcy to add back into their daily routines. An institution as large as a university has a lot of pressure to succeed, and we as students can say the same about ourselves.