Students challenged in new at-home class environments

Caitlin Jefferson and Connor Severino
Transcript correspondents

As Ohio Wesleyan students wrestle with the new paradigm of remote learning after classes were canceled, some are doing well while others struggle with the tasks, getting work done on time and even remembering assignments.

More than 1,300 OWU students were ordered home last month to prevent infection from the highly contagious, rapidly spreading worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Faculty and students alike scrambled to reconfigure and readjust to teaching and learning remotely.

It’s a work in progress.

Cole Hatcher, director of OWU’s Media and Community Relations, said the adjustments seem to be going well, for the most part. One of the most difficult tasks was working out logistics for international students.  About 50 students remain on campus, the administration has said.

“We just want to make sure everyone feels included and comfortable amidst everything going on,” Hatcher said. To help faculty, students and staff, OWU’s Office of Information Services on Thursday posted instructions on OWU Daily to download free Adobe products.

Still, while some work-at-home students do feel comfortable, others aren’t feeling it yet.

Freshman Eliza Richardson has been finding it difficult to focus on schoolwork while being home in Lakewood, Ohio during these uncertain times.

“It is hard to stay on top of my work and make my own schedule,” Richardson said. “I get distracted at home and I do not have as much structure here as I do at school.”

Two of Richardson’s four classes are live video sessions and the other two are pre-recorded, which makes it difficult for her to stay on task, she said.

“My biggest challenge has been getting all my work done on time and not forgetting an assignment, which happened with my chemistry homework,” Richardson said.

Richardson said she has stayed positive by painting, exercising, playing games and staying off of her phone as much as possible. She said she has also been enjoying this extra time with her family.

Sophomore Molly Mazabras, at home in New Canaan, Connecticut, mingles with family daily now too, another new paradigm for OWU students who would normally be on campus now. She said she puts the family on notice when she has school work to get after.

Her brothers start school early in the morning, so Mazabras said she tells her family when she has class or schoolwork so they don’t disturb her.

“I have my own room to do my work and my three younger brothers have their own spaces too,” Mazabras said. “My biggest challenge has been just learning material, especially for my stats class because I have to teach myself, which is really hard.”

She said her professors have been good at communicating, which has helped her stay on track in her classes.

“Keeping myself busy with schoolwork, spending lots of time with family and just knowing that eventually this will end have been some ways that I have tried to stay positive,” Mazabras said. “I don’t think remote learning has been too bad so far.”

Senior Peter Mihok, of New Town, Connecticut, said studying in the home work space has been a struggle along with dealing with a younger sibling.

“For me it is not the material I have to focus on, rather the issue is the space I have at home  which is inadequate to study the complex courses OWU offers,” Mihok said. “I never had good results studying in my room. My younger brother is 13, so he’s kind of a distraction as he’s bouncing off the walls.”

“It will be good to look back and see how students are able to change in rapid circumstances and adapt to sudden life alterations,” – Martha Wilson, part-time journalism instructor

Senior Alysa Grindlinger, home in Falmouth, Maine, said one thing she is not doing is sleeping in.

“I spend the time I would normally be in class studying or completing homework. I do this on weekends, as well,” she said.

On the other hand, Grindlinger does find time to talk to family and friends on FaceTime or Skype and playing board games with her parents. She said she’s also enrolled in a 30-day yoga challenge on her favorite YouTube Channel.

“I’m taking my dog on long walks to get out of the house, while maintaining social distancing,” she said. “I’m learning new recipes so that I am cooking in the time I would otherwise spend snacking.”

As for the remote learning part, she said she is having mixed results with professors from her classes, including having to wade through multi-page emails at times.

“Some teachers have a knack for this kind of teaching, others clearly do not,” she said. “Some professors seem to be having difficulty parting with the format of traditional classes and exams. As such, assignments or exams might seem unnecessarily overcomplicated from a student’s point of view.”

Faculty are learning too and doing what they can to alleviate student challenges and readjust course requirements, like Kyle McDaniel, an assistant communication professor.

“From a faculty perspective, I have made several attempts to ensure that students have enough time to complete assignments,” McDaniel said.

Eventually the whole state of affairs for OWU students caused by the virus will be interesting from an historical perspective, said Martha Wilson, a part-time journalism instructor.

“It will be good to look back and see how students are able to change in rapid circumstances and adapt to sudden life alterations,” Wilson said.

Competitors grieve Bishop’s lost athletic season

Peter Lujan, Erin Ross and Hailey de la Vara
Transcript correspondents

When the novel coronavirus closed Ohio Wesleyan, all athletic events ground to a halt for the remainder of the spring semester, wiping out the aspirations of more than 500 athletes from 25 teams.

The abrupt ending to the season sent everyone packing, heading back home while leaving many heartbroken and devastated. For senior athletes, the last semester of playing for the Battling Bishops vanished before their eyes.

Senior Cirrus Robinson, a four time national champion with five All-American titles in women’s track and field, was at the nationals meet in Winston Salem, North Carolina to compete in the high jump when she heard the news.

She never got the chance to compete – the meet was canceled after the team arrived.

“I was surrounded by athletes, many that I know personally by now, with their chances taken from them in real time,” Robinson said. “There were people crying outside and in the hallways. Everyone was on the phone. It was heartbreaking, especially because in retrospect it was only the tip of the iceberg.”

Robinson, who’s participated in six national track and field competitions, said it’s difficult to accept the fact that her time competing for OWU has ended.

“I have zero regrets or longings about my career as a Bishop,” she said. “That said, this is still not easy. My teammates, who are everything to me, deserved more chances to shine and show themselves this season.”

The NCAA has granted another year of eligibility to spring sport seniors, she said.

“I know many of my friends in the NCAC and NCAA will be using this to finish what they started,” Robinson said. “I’m so happy for them and I will surely be hanging on the fence to watch them achieve their goals.”

Most student athletes accumulate a long history of work, so this abrupt ending to the season was heartbreaking, said Julia Dickman, a sophomore on the track and field team.

“This is my first season off from sports in 12 years,” Dickman said. “I’ve never not known a spring or fall season without games, meets or being with my best friends and my teammates.”

Ashley Smiley, on the women’s track and field and soccer teams, was in Belize for a travel learning course when she heard the news. She initially thought everything was being blown out of proportion.

“When I heard that the spring season was cancelled, it didn’t seem real,” Smiley said. “Once I came back and saw how rapid everything was spreading, I understood the decision in order to try and keep everyone safe and healthy.”

OWU’s men’s baseball team was in Florida competing when these rapidly escalating events initially caught senior right handed pitcher Justin Grubb by surprise. But the reality of the season’s end didn’t take long to set in.

“I pretty much knew when we had two games left in our Florida trip,” Grubb said. “It was pretty hard because I had pitched the day before and didn’t think that it would be my last.”

Initially speculation circulated that the season would only be postponed.

“College athletics has not only allowed me to continue to play the game that I love, but also has given me friendships that will last forever.” – Justin Grubb

“At first I thought the decision was very quick to the trigger and not necessary to cancel an entire season,” Grubb said. “However, it doesn’t seem like this virus is going to go away anytime soon, so in the end they made the right decision.”

Despite the strange and sad position seniors find themselves in, Grubb was able to recall fondly his time playing collegiate baseball.

“I’ll remember all the stories I’ve had with my teammates over the years, and how much we’ve grown and changed in just four years,” he said. “College athletics has not only allowed me to continue to play the game that I love, but also has given me friendships that will last forever.”

As much as senior women’s softball pitcher Kendall Kaiser is sadden by the end of the season, she said valuable life lessons can be learned.

“Having my senior softball season cut short so quickly helped me realize to never take things for granted,” she said. “Luckily, I was informed of the news before I had played my final game, so I was able to change my mindset to just play because I love the game and to play with confidence,”

“We will re-establish our purpose and prepare in an even more meaningful way.  I expect we will be even better due to this experience.” – Kris Boey

Delivering the unwelcome news to athletes was an emotional task for coaches, said Mike Plantholt, coach of the Ohio Wesleyan men’s lacrosse team.

“We brought everyone into Branch Rickey arena and I had them sit on the bleachers … I just tried to be straight up and to the point with them on the developments,” Plantholt said. “In our program we try to tackle situations and problems head-on and focus on the things we have control over.”

Though emotions and tensions were high, Plantholt said he went about the situation as calmly and rationally as possible.

“At that point we had zero control over the season being cancelled so we just focused on the next steps. It was just business as usual,” Plantholt said.

Finding a positive, Kris Boey, coach of the men’s and women’s track and field teams, said he believes this extra-long offseason could have benefits.

“I expect it will leave our team hungry and wanting more,” Boey said. “We will re-establish our purpose and prepare in an even more meaningful way.  I expect we will be even better due to this experience.”

And as we live through one of the most rapid spreading pandemics in the world’s history, Plantholt has a message for everyone who may be feeling scared or overwhelmed.

“This quarantine will not last, but our team, the Ohio Wesleyan athletics program, and our university will,” Plantholt said.

Without stages or studios, students and professors grapple to adjust

Katie Cantrell and Meg Edwards
Transcript correspondents

Remote teaching may work well for some disciplines at Ohio Wesleyan, but some of its limitations and the complete closing of campus has thrown some programs into turmoil.

Much of the academic logistics in programs like fine arts, music and theater have been flipped upside down. Furthermore, students participating in travel learning courses, theory-to-practice grant projects and small grant projects were told to pack up and leave their programs early.

Meanwhile, faculty and staff have been helping students rescheduled projects planned for May and June, which were canceled.

“Luckily, we have been able to get full refunds, no-fee cancellations or no-cost transfers on bookings,” said Darrel Albon, OWU’s director of international and off-campus programs.

“Our New York Arts Program had students not only from OWU, but also from other colleges and universities … returned home and (we) have made arrangements with their internship sponsors and NYAP faculty to complete their seminar and research assignments and complete work on their internships.”

OWU’s fine arts programs and its students are also struggling to fashion a pathway on the road to remote teaching when these disciplines normally require hands-on projects and in-person showcases.

The senior art show, which exhibits work from all Ohio Wesleyan fine arts seniors, is one of many on-campus events and activities being reconfigured in the wake of the COVID-19 campus closures.

The museum staff and the members of the fine arts department have been collaborating to try and figure out a solution that will allow seniors within the major to have their year-end required exhibit, said Erin Fletcher, the director of the Ross Museum, who is working with Jim Krehbiel, a professor of fine arts.

“Jim and I have been in close contact since returning from break,” she said. “I liaise with the museum staff and Jim liaises with the fine arts faculty,” she said. “We have all been working diligently to find a way to represent senior work.”

Faculty and staff have proposed multiple solutions, such as rescheduling or other more creative options, but they’re still figuring out how this exhibit will be done this year. Seniors will be the first to know once they have everything figured out, Fletcher said.

One problem is deciding how to showcase student’s artwork without an audience because people can’t go to the museum when the show is typically held.

The museum currently has a virtual 3-D tour of the faculty exhibit because it was set up before the facility was closed to the public and the staff was required to leave campus, Fletcher said.

“We do these 3-D tours from time to time for special exhibits. We have not done them for all exhibits in the past due to the expense,” Fletcher said.

Meanwhile, student artists struggle with completing their work in familiar, but not academic, surroundings.

Senior Rory Gleeson was planning to take a gap year to continue building her painting and drawing portfolio for graduate school applications when she learned OWU was closing. She since has moved back to her parents’ home, in New Plymouth, Ohio and spent days clearing out an old computer room to serve as a make-shift studio.

“The space is small, cold and has terrible lighting and I don’t have easels at my house to hold large work, so mostly I’ve just had to sit uncomfortably on the floor in order to work,” she said in a phone interview.

Gleeson said she hopes students are refunded for their studio fees, because “my home setup just really does not compare.”

Gleeson said the process of framing pieces and preparing them for display in Edgar Hall would take multiple days. She is worried she will not be able to travel to Delaware and stay in a hotel for the show if it is rescheduled.

“I feel like that, combined with the ongoing pandemic, is going to delay just generally getting on with my life after graduation,” she said.

Professors are feeling their students’ pain.

Kristina Bogdanov, an associate professor of fine arts, said she is leaning toward a flexible schedule online to better accommodate the needs of all students and is extending office hours so all students, especially those struggling with remote learning, can easily ask for help.

Bogdanov teaches three levels of drawing courses and three levels of ceramics, but remote teaching will be especially hard with ceramics. It is a three dimensional art requiring clay, a place to work with the clay and a place to dry and fire the clay.

For seniors, it’s rough because they were supposed to start working on finishing their work for the required-for-graduation senior showcase.

“It’s sad for the seniors, not having time to have that moment of their actual senior exhibition,” Bogdanov said. “It will happen, but that definitely can never be replaced online as reality is with the museum and reception and so forth.”

Another casualty to the pandemic – the March upper-level class trip for a national conference for ceramics art and education in Richmond, Virginia.

This rapidly changing situation has also affected the Department of Theatre and Dance, which has lost all audiences for the near future. The spring musical was to be “The Secret Garden” by Marsha Norman, based on the 1911 novel by Frances Hogsdon Burnett. It has been canceled.

Glen Vanderbilt, a professor in the department and director of the musical, said he polled students about performing at the start of fall semester, doing what they had already worked on. Many expressed interest, but Vanderbilt said the actors in several feature roles would need to be recast, which proved “too big of a mountain to climb over.”

“I know the students were very low when the closure ramped up to full time,” he said in an email.

Theater classes are using “Meet,” online meeting software offered by Google Hangouts. Vanderbilt said one big problem is students failing to respond to email, making it difficult to evaluate work.

Theatre majors, like seniors Sarah Gielink and Monty Almoro, are experiencing some of the same headaches as their fine arts peers.

Both planned to present their senior project this spring, a requirement for all graduating theater majors.

Gielink and Almoro had written their own adaptation in Spanish of the 17th century Spanish comedy “Life is a Dream,” which was the culmination of years of work by ten students and faculty.  They had a theory-to-practice grant and had begun rehearsals, but will finish the year by writing a reflection on their experiences.

“The first announcement alone hit hard, when events were canceled through March 29,” Gielink said. “Then the next day came the cancelations through April 5, which meant we lost Terpsicorps too, and then the day after that the whole semester. I just remember feeling like nothing was left.” Terpsicorps is a student led dance performance with various styles and themes

Gielink said now that she has had time to process, the loss of the productions has become another part of “the new normal.”

“I know we’re both proud of the work we’ve done and our whole team has had our backs the entire time,” she said.“Looking back, I’m so glad that we got to work together and come this far.”

The pandemic and all it has created impacted students both on campus and those in off-campus learning environments.

Albon, director of those programs, said everyone in his department has been working diligently.

The department has been helping students, scattered around the globe, to return home while ensuring their immigration records and visas are in order.  All the students that had been approved for roughly a dozen different off-campus credit programs have now returned home and are participating in remote learning like the rest of the OWU student body.

Albon’s office has also been planning and preparing for fall 2020 programs.

“We have not heard a word from any of our international or domestic partner institutions and programs about fall program changes or cancellations, but this situation is still developing,” he said. “Our partners are communicating with us regularly and we are communicating with them too, (which includes) our OWU folks in New York city at the NYAP likewise.”

After rocky start, students on near-empty campus labor to acclimate to strange new college lifestyle

Azmeh Talha

Caitlin Jefferson
Transcript Correspondent

Ohio Wesleyan University, a bustling campus abuzz with college students just a few weeks ago, has pivoted into a near ghost town.

Gone are more than 1,300 enrollees, most of whom have returned home for the remainder of the semester due to the rapidly spreading, highly contagious novel coronavirus.  Only about 50 mostly international students remain, said OWU President Rock Jones.

Jones, in a campus-wide email sent Wednesday, said recent events had created an overwhelming sea change for business as usual.

“We have found ourselves in the midst of a new normal none of us imagined and without a definite end date,” he wrote. “In all my years of higher education, nothing else has so profoundly transformed our institutions and shaken our students experience or the work that (faculty and staff) do.”

At this point, the administration is unsure how long the students living on campus now will remain. Jones said that issue has not been discussed, but will be in the future. He referred additional questions to Brian Emerick, director of Residential Life, who could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, students do their best to carry on in this new and abnormal campus lifestyle.

Sophomore Joy Buraima, from the Ivory Coast in West Africa, said she was given permission to stay until the end of the semester. She is living in the LA CASA Small Living Unit.

“Even if I wanted to go home, I could not as the borders have been closed. It would have been so inconvenient too, as I am meant to be here in the states during the summer for a program,” Buraima said.

Buraima, who said she is trying to stay positive through the pandemic and all the changes it has caused, thinks OWU has done a good job keeping students on campus informed.

“They’ve all expressed their willingness to make things work regardless and have all offered a great deal of support and flexibility,” she said.

At times, Buraima said she has experienced information overload, yet she is still curious about what happens when the semester ends.

“It’s fairly difficult to not get flooded by the plethora of information out there concerning this and other matters of emergency,” she said. “I would like to hear from (OWU) how this will affect other upcoming events meant to be held in the summer. I do understand, though, that nobody has any fixed answers due to the ever-changing nature of this situation.”

Humor has helped her cope with this, at times, frightening situation and she said most of her friends are doing their best to follow the guidelines set by the university.  She’s also thankful for the unwavering support of her parents, who live across the globe.

“I think I’m feeling better every day. It was very rough at first but I’m confident that we can make things work, somehow. It’s all we can do anyway,” Buraima said.

Sophomore Mukami Mboche, from Kenya, said her parents, while far away, are still a big help in keeping her worries in check.

“My parents keep me updated on what is going on at home,” she said. “They help me by keeping me calm about the whole situation and reassuring me that everything will be fine both at home and here as well.”

Mboche is living in Hayes Hall through June, when she will go back to Nairobi, but she worries about travel bans that may still be in place.

“I am extremely nervous … Kenya has set a travel ban,” she said “But I am hopeful that by July this virus will be gone or going and the ban will hopefully be lifted.”

As a fine arts major, remote learning has been a challenge, especially for classes like studio art. But her professors have helped, she said.

“It will challenge me to stay focused on schoolwork and to not get distracted by the comfort of my room and bed,” Mboche said.

Self-isolation is getting to her, but Mboche said she and her friends are taking the pandemic seriously by implementing social distancing.

“We implement social distancing heavily, and only make contact a few times for meals … we stay separated just as a precaution,” she said.

Not all on-campus students are from foreign lands. Senior Ruby Scheckelhoff, from Columbus, has remained and is living in Smith Hall because a family member at home has a compromised immune system.

A big stress for Scheckelhoff is remote learning. She said she feels as though her classwork has been tripled and she has no time on the weekend to prepare for work during the school week.

“This has been incredibly detrimental to my learning to have so much work,” she said. “Professors do not seem to care about a weekend anymore either.”

On top of being overwhelmed with this new learning style, Scheckelhoff has been coping with not being able to finish out her senior year the way she would have liked.

“I definitely took time to be selfishly angry about leaving as a senior,” Scheckelhoff said. “There were people I never had the chance to say goodbye to that I probably won’t see again.”

She said she is following social distancing guidelines and is finding things beside school work to keep her busy while staying in her room.

“I have expanded into the other half of my room and gave myself an office space for school, then I have a room for sleeping and video games, among other things,” she said.

Restricted dining hours in Bishop Café have been an irritating inconvenience, too, but OWU did put an extra $200 into all student’s dining dollars through the end of the semester, she said.

Scheckelhoff tries to find ways to stay active and not be repetitive each day, although it is difficult because of so little human interaction.

“Even being an introvert, it is hard to not see other people,” Scheckelhoff said. “When I open my window, I see no one and it feels dystopian.”

Sophomore Astrid Koek, from the Netherlands, has also struggled at times, but also realizes she is not alone.

“I have good days and bad days and honestly I think I am in no place to complain,” Koek said. “My situation is interesting, but it is no worse or more sad than anyone else’s.”

One of Koek’s Delta Delta Delta sorority sisters let her live at her house until she returns home again. She said she keeps in touch with her family through FaceTime every day.

“I feel like we are creating a strong bond from this situation and my parents are teaching me to see the good in every situation, which I am very grateful for,” Koek said. “I love being home, but I really like being here.”

Friends helped Koek move to the house where she now lives and OWU provided all international students with three boxes and free storage. She misses her people but also feels lucky.

“Seeing all my friends at home with their families made me miss mine more, but I did not want to complain because I am in a privileged situation just being here,” she said. “Being alone right now is somewhat scary, but it also makes me realize how very lucky I am to have certain people in my life and for all the friendliness I have received here.”

Cereal box caps, butter cookie Bishop awards turn tears to joy for senior ceremony

By Tiffany Moore

Transcript Correspondent

COVID-19 may have forced cancelation of in-person classes and postponed graduation at Ohio Wesleyan, but it didn’t stop five seniors from a commencement ceremony while on a service trip in Puerto Rico.

OWU President Rock Jones announced OWU would turn to remote teaching on May 13 and four days later the university postponed commencement due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

As news spread about cancelled classes and delayed graduation, the mood of the Puerto Rico service trip shifted toward “worry” and “angst”, according to Kerri Robe, assistant program manager for OWU’s Community Service Learning.

It hit everyone hard, including senior Annelise Hernandez.

“When I read the e-mail I was speechless and then cried because I love OWU so much,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez said the news that campus life was ending was shocking.

“Even though I was ready to wrap-up my time as an undergraduate student, I wasn’t ready to leave the campus community yet,” she said. “I wondered if my family would be able to see me walk across the patio at Merrick to receive my diploma in honor of their sacrifices and my efforts.”

Senior Selam Weldu said rapidly changing events shattered her dreams.

“I got so emotional because I envisioned being able to walk down the stage and get my diploma having my family and friends there,” Weldu said. “It felt like a loss, like I would be losing a very important moment.”

But unbeknownst to them and the other seniors on the trip, Robe texted Sally Leber, the director of Community Service Learning, to describe the senior’s heartbreak.

Leber texted back and said, “Maybe you should do something for them,” Robe said.

So, Robe planned a surprise graduation ceremony in two days for Hernandez, Weldu, Avianna Carmoega, Dylan Hays and Duncan Copeland, with support from Residential Life coordinator Dave Hampshire and sophomore Ashleigh Leonard.

“Our seniors have worked incredibly hard and have sacrificed many things to be at this point. The uncertainty with commencement, I felt they deserved to be recognized for their accomplishments,” Robe said, “Dave, Ashleigh and I wanted them to feel special, to feel recognized, to feel included.”

And the ceremony turned out to be very special.

“When they brought us outside and said ‘Welcome to your graduation’ we were all overwhelmed with emotions and cried,” Hernandez said.

Hamshire began the ceremony by announcing each student as they walked down a pathway, passing a fountain and foliage toward the courtyard of the Airbnb where they were staying.

Leonard presented each with graduation caps made of cereal boxes and aluminum foil, a hand-written diploma, and a Puerto Rico lanyard as a cord.

After all the graduates were announced, Hampshire gave an emotional and motivational speech, Robe said.

Seniors received Golden Bishop Awards – golden butter cookies – and a reading of character traits for each graduate, created by Hamshire, Robe, and Leonard.

Robe said she told the seniors and Hampshire and Leonard they had all made a lasting impression on her.

“I am deeply grateful to have shared this experience with you. Each of you is destined for greatness,” she said she told them.

At the ceremony’s end, Robe read the motivational poem “The Oak Tree” before the seniors tossed their improvised graduation caps into the air.

Copeland said the graduation ceremony made him feel acknowledged and respected.

“Ashleigh, Dave and Kerri went above and beyond with their thoughts and efforts to provide something meaningful for us,” he said.

Carmoega said it was a moment she will cherish for life.

“It meant the world to me and as soon as they called out my name I wiped my tears and skipped across the stage with a smile on my face,” she said. “We were all sniffling and looked around at each other in pride. It was a meaningful moment I will never forget.”

Hernandez said, “This was my capstone experience that made it perfectly clear that I chose the right place to be – my OWU home away from home.”

Weldu said the virus and its aftermath can be a valuable lesson to underclassmen.

“Enjoy all the moments you get to be with your friends on campus and the moments you get to interact with your professors and classmates,” she said. “You don’t know when your last day is going to be your last day.”

New reality dawns at OWU as COVID-19 slowly shuts campus down

By Azmeh Talha


Hailey de la Vera and Katie Cantrell

Transcript Correspondents

As most Ohio Wesleyan students cleared out belongings from dorms and tried to grasp their new reality, they also coped with sadness over leaving campus and close friends and wondered how they might carry on in this new world, both academically and socially.

Meanwhile, faculty accustomed and trained to teach in a classroom, struggled with the new reality of teaching students remotely.

Professor of fine arts Kristina Bogdanov teaches several drawing and ceramic classes, a three-dimensional art form using clay. She is wrestling with how that will look remotely.

“Classes like these are going to require a little more creativity and investment on my part,” she said. “I never thought even in my wildest nightmare dreams something like this could happen.”

But happen it has.

OWU announced in recent days the rapid spread of COVID-19 was forcing the school to:

  • Suspend all in-class meetings and events for the remainder of the semester
  • Order all students to move back home
  • Move to a remote teaching system
  • Postpone senior commencement ceremonies

On Thursday, OWU President Rock Jones announced that after reviewing public health information and government mandates, all staff, except those deemed essential to support the remaining on-campus students and to maintain urgent campus operations, were to begin working from home by 5 p.m. Friday.

Somewhere between 60-70 students, mostly international, are expected to remain living on campus.

Sophomore Astrid Koek, from the Netherlands, would like to go home but cannot. She said she understands OWU is trying to do its best for her and other students in her situation.

“It’s a difficult time because we want to go home since everything around us is so uncertain,” Koek said. “We created a family here but now everyone is home and we’re left alone. The feeling of homesickness has gotten worse and we can’t go home, so we’re completely relying on other people’s kindness.”

The remaining students will not be abandoned, Jones promised.

“Work already has begun to ensure these on-campus students feel cared for and supported,” Jones said. “Take-out meals will be served three times a day. The T-store will be open for limited hours. Other services will be available on a limited basis.”

Jones also reiterated senior graduation would eventually be held on campus at a later date and anyone unable to attend could still participate.

“We will make it a virtual experience for those who are not able to return to campus,” Jones said. “It will be creative, fun and a great celebration of the accomplishments of the Class of 2020.”

Jones said he also understands remote learning and teaching will be a profound challenge for both students and faculty.

“Faculty are working hard to make this the best possible experience, even though it is not the way they have spent their lives preparing to teach,” he said. “The flexibility of students and faculty alike is a wonderful reflection of other aspects of OWU, including the determination to do whatever is necessary to provide the best possible educational experience, regardless of the challenges presented.”

And many challenges exist.

Economics professor Robert Gitter said he has had too little time to prepare for a method of teaching he has never used. He said he uses Blackboard mainly to post grades, readings and assignments.

“We’re just making the best of a bad situation,” he said. “I will hold office hours and respond by email and I’ll be glad to talk with people via Google Hangouts, Skype and phone calls. But I imagine that some people will just fall behind and all I can do is reach out to them and we’ll do the best we can.”

Junior Kelli Bertoia is concerned about this new learning vehicle.

“I feel that there are many disadvantages that come with remote learning, including difficulty interacting with peers, getting immediate feedback from professors, and difficulty staying connected at all times if you don’t have constant reliable technology,” Bertoia said.

Junior Aimee Duckworth, a member of OWU’s women’s softball team, is also struggling with this new reality.

“It’s taken a toll on me mentally having to wrap my head around the fact that I won’t play for another year,” she said. “It’s also hard for the seniors and how they got their season taken away.”

Senior Meg Dalton would agree with the toll this takes on seniors – for everything.

“I’m very sad my senior year had to end liked this,” she said. “Having to leave my friends was the hardest part.”

Senior Emily VanDermark said as difficult as OWU’s closure is, it’s the right thing to do.

“I think that the steps taken were necessary and I support the administration’s decisions regarding the whole situation,” she said. “All we can do is be smart and safe and there for each other through all of this.”

OWU postpones 2020 commencement as students say goodbye to campus  

Meg Edwards and Hailey de la Vara

Transcript correspondents

Ohio Wesleyan University announced Tuesday it is postponing commencement ceremonies – for now.

In another stunning blow to students already reeling from cancelation of all class meetings for the remainder of the semester due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, OWU President Rock Jones sent a campus-wide email just before 3 p.m., sharing the message he gave to the senior class about graduation earlier in the day.

“ … my heart aches knowing that you can’t be on campus to complete your senior year,” the email said. “(But) will we have a Class of 2020 ceremony? The answer is a resounding YES!”

The date for that, however, is yet to be determined.

With a nod to the current reality, Jones wrote: “I can’t wait to hand you your diploma and shake your hand (or maybe bump your elbow) as you walk across the graduation stage in front of cheering family members and friends.”

Jones promised additional “festivities” would be planned for graduating seniors so they could properly celebrate with classmates and families.

Nonetheless, for seniors like Mahnoor Ansari, it was a bitter pill to swallow. She groaned when she saw the email on her phone.

“I don’t want to read it,” she said.

Senior Emily VanDermark, who is on OWU’s women’s softball team, said she is having a difficult time wrapping her head around the entire situation.

“For me the whole situation is just really sad. Mostly because it isn’t directly anyone’s fault,” she said. “In a span of one week I’ve lost my final season and my last times on campus with my classmates, sorority sisters, teammates and friends.”

Meanwhile, across campus students were hauling refrigerators and boxes of clothes out of their dorms, with many parents trailing close behind.

Sophomore Jacquelyn Keslar said the campus was turning into a ghost town.

Although new guidelines require the Bishop Cafe to close its seated dining area, students gathered Tuesday with their carry-out food in the Hamilton-Williams Campus Center atrium to share a meal with friends before leaving campus.

Jones acknowledged this new darker reality in his email, but also offered encouragement.

“The spirit of the campus, while saddened by the departure of students and the need for most of us to isolate and work remotely, is strong and good,” he wrote. “We are fortunate to be a part of the Bishop family, and we are grateful for the support that has been shared by so many.”

OWU launches coronavirus education team

Maddie Matos

Transcript correspondent

The coronavirus, which has infected 28,000 people – an increase of 35 percent since Monday – and killed 563 in China, appeared to draw closer to home last week, a fact not lost on the Ohio Wesleyan campus.

And the Ohio Department of Health said yesterday it is testing for another possible case of the virus in Ohio, but it won’t say where, according to the Columbus Dispatch.  At least 12 people around the U.S. have tested positive for the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health officials had quarantined and tested two students from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, who had traveled to China recently. The results for both students were negative, but OWU organized a team to keep a close eye on potential problems, although there are no indications anyone here has been infected, OWU President Rock Jones said.

“Sean Bolender, director of public safety, is leading a team of individuals from across campus in monitoring this situation and ensuring we are fully prepared if the virus arrives on campus,” Jones said.

The campus team is teaching students and staff about the virus and how to minimize risk, Jones said.

Doug Koyle, the associate dean for student success, in an email sent across campus Tuesday reiterated that no confirmed cases exist in Ohio and while the risk is low, the virus continues to spread “making it important to understand more about the potentially fatal condition.”

In an earlier email on Jan. 30 and the most recent note, Koyle pointed out the flu and coronavirus have similar symptoms, which include a fever, cough or other respiratory illness, a sore throat, runny nose and body aches.

“The most important difference is a person’s risk of exposure,” Koyle wrote. “To be diagnosed with the coronavirus, people must have – within 14 days of developing symptoms – either have traveled from Wuhan City, China, or have had close contact with someone who has suspected or confirmed coronavirus.”

Close contact is within 6 feet of, or the same room as, a coronavirus patient for a prolonged period, or having direct contact with the patient’s bodily fluids, including coughs and sneezes, without having protective gear, Koyle said.

The U.S. has temporarily barred travel to China, which has locked down an unprecedented 50 million people in the province of Hubei.

The campus community is urged to call the Student Health Center or any other local health facility first if they suspect they or someone else may have the virus to give medical staff time to prepare to avoid unnecessary exposure. The health center phone number is 740-368-3160 and its hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

More information can be found on the CDC website.