‘This is unprecedented:’ Students react to UB’s move to ‘distance-learning’ model
Students were confused Wednesday as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and UB announced a move to a “distance-learning” model on March 23 for the rest of the spring semester.
Throughout the day Wednesday, hundreds of students were on their phones throughout heavily trafficked areas of North Campus, as others lined up by the dozens to spend their dining dollars at UB’s Elli convenience store. Students said they understand the need to move to an all-online model, but that they are “overwhelmed” and “need to process” any potential ramifications.
Cuomo announced that, due to coronavirus concerns, all SUNY and CUNY campuses will transition to an online class model for the duration of the semester. The coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19, was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization Wednesday. New York now has the second-highest rate of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S., with 216, as of 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Students raised concerns about how on-campus living arrangements, dining hall services, on-campus jobs and lab-and-project-based courses would change. Students questioned if UB would be offering refunds for lab and recreation fees and dining and health services. Students also wondered if their financial aid packages would be affected by this decision.
UB President Satish Tripathi sent an email to the UB community Wednesday at 7 p.m. saying “UB will remain open, and UB’s campus operations will continue without interruption. This includes residence halls, campus dining, student academic support and health services, university libraries, transportation, campus safety and all other university services.”
Tripathi wrote that Provost A. Scott Weber will send an email with further information “shortly.”
Leigha Archibald, a senior health and human services major, said she was frustrated by the “lack of information” on the move and would like more guidance from the administration.
“UB officials really need to get on this,” Archibald said. “Because international students and everybody is just kind of like, ‘What am I supposed to do?’ I’m in full panic mode.”
Like many other students, Archibald is now uncertain about her post-spring break plans.
“They are waiting to delay the panic, but now we only have two days to figure out what we are going to do,” she said. “Are we going to stay or go? Are we going to pack?”
Others like Kevin Haschmann, a senior media studies major, fear the consequences of this decision will extend far beyond the classroom.
“I’m going to lose my job,” Haschmann said. “I’m going to have no reason to be out here and they’re going to tell me, ‘Oh well.’ I have no reason to buy my cap and gown. I don’t have access to the equipment in my house to do my projects.”
Lisa Amponsah, a freshman electrical engineering major, said she thinks the decision came too soon.
“To be honest I am not scared at all,” Amponsah said. “It’s whatever. It’s there … I think it’s everywhere but Buffalo now so I don’t know if they made the right decision. I mean it’s probably going to come over here, but they have to think about where the international students are going to go and all these other people too.”
Students like Nick Clifford, James Herlihy, Antonio Vargas and Ben Hewitson, were worried about meal plan reimbursements and lined up outside of the Elli with large bags, or laundry baskets, to use up their dining dollars for the semester. Collectively, the group spent over $800 in dining dollars after hearing the news.
“Chips. Cookies. I started taking the [laundry] basket and actually scooping the shelves,” one said.
Tioga Simpson, a freshman theater major, said public health concerns are the biggest priority, but she is currently working on a school production for “Everybody” and would be sad to see it canceled.
“I think safety is so important and I wouldn’t want to put anybody at risk in any way,” Simpson said. “It’s scary to think about our season being canceled. For seniors who need the credit, it could be a really big deal. To have worked so hard all semester on the show could be really sad. I think safety is still paramount.”
Yossi Levy, a senior communication major, wonders how the decision will affect his graduation this May.
“It’s my last semester, so it’s interesting,” Levy said. “It’s smart to be safe and everything. But it stinks because you want that social aspect of UB, as well. But it is what it is.”
Glenn Kicman, a senior media studies major, responded to the situation with humor.
“Hey, senior year is about making memories,” Kicman said. “What better way to do that than sitting in your dorm room by yourself?”
Pamela Lara, a sophomore business major, said she “has so many questions, [but] no answers.” She said she wonders how the decision will impact student housing, on-campus dining and many of the other on-campus services offered.
Lara is also disappointed by the effect the decision will have on her social life.
“I am so upset,” Lara said. “The entire semester? I don’t want to be home for that long. All my friends are here.”
Jacob Klieger, a junior communication major, said he is still trying to process the information.
“It almost felt imminent,” Klieger said. “The weight of how unprecedented this is really sunk in. But I don’t think we’ll know the full impact of this yet. We don’t know if it’s going to help. We don’t know if this is going to stop things yet. We’re going to look back and think, ‘Wow. The 2020 Coronavirus. That was a thing.’”
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