Posted on: February 5, 2021 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

By JRN 111-Media Writing Students

Only the occasional footprint track marred the thick blanket of snow on campus, the chill in the air heightening the feeling of loneliness.

Although many students and faculty members returned to campus for hybrid courses this week, most classrooms remained dark, doors locked, as the smell of disinfectant wafted through hallways. 

 “It feels so weird…there’s no coffee!” said second-semester student Sherene Gurrola. “The book store is closed, there is nobody on the computers… it’s a ghost town.”

For many, this was the first time on campus in more than ten months, as the campus has been mostly shut down since March due to COVID-19. 

For freshman Daniel Gutierrez, this was the only college experience he knew. “I was thinking it would be crowded,” he said, sitting nearly 50 feet from the next person. 

In response to student demand last fall, Moraine set out to double the number of hybrid courses for spring, but many courses ended up being converted back to online or virtual formats as students didn’t sign up for the hybrid courses as expected.

In the hybrid format, about one third of the course is face-to-face, with the other two thirds online. To help with social distancing, the return to on-campus instruction was staggered, with many courses just beginning face-to-face meetings in week three of the semester.

Parking lots on campus remain mostly empty as students and faculty return to campus part time for hybrid courses.

Emotions on campus ranged from bittersweet anxiousness to relief to optimism. Some felt on edge, as if they were trespassing on private property.

Biology professor Neil Kirkpatrick said he had “mixed emotions about returning” and that he was “both excited and nervous.” Kirkpatrick had a lot more to think about on his commute to campus than usual: “I was going through a mental checklist of things I had to do and guidelines I have to follow.”

Sophomore Kelly Calcagno felt uneasy, saying she would be more comfortable in a virtual or online class.

“I feel a little scared because I’m a Type 1 diabetic, so there’s a bigger chance I could get sick,” she said. “But I’m being careful.”

Meanwhile, science department assistant Kathy O’Connor was feeling good. Pushing an empty cart in the C building, she stopped to speak with another staff member, then continued on her way. 

 “It’s been so wonderful to see students back, and the teachers too, of course!” she said. “It’s like a breath of fresh air. Today was my day to come in and I just saw five teachers I haven’t seen since March!”

In the S building, the Multicultural Student Affairs Center was prepared for Black History Month. Filled with posters, ethnic books and décor, it was welcoming and lively compared with the rest of campus.

Receptionist Precious Clark, warm and cozy in her hoodie, sat at her desk with a large McDonald’s cup, ready to face her day on campus.

“I actually like it. I missed being here,” said Clark, a sophomore majoring in international business. “Better than being trapped inside. All my classes are online, but I come into work now. I get to do homework here too.”

For bookstore employees and other staff members, this was just another week, as they have been back on campus since May.

It’s been so wonderful to see students back, and the teachers too, of course…Today was my day to come in and I just saw five teachers I haven’t seen since March!”

Science department assistant Kathy O’Connor

Digital press operator Maria Budz was helping students pick up bookstore purchases curbside. She said she liked having more people on campus, calling it “a sign of good things to come.” 

The sense of eeriness and isolation contributed to fear of the unknown for some people. Despite the use of masks, social distancing, and other safety measures, some still feel anxious.

 “I social distance, but you never know where everyone else has been,” said sophomore nursing major Yesenia Saldivar. Still, she said, “I’m just glad we’re back.”

Sophomore biology major Allie Macelli said she was wary at first. “I was very nervous and kind of scared but it was overall good. There weren’t too many people around.”

She, too, was excited despite her nerves: “I really missed in-person learning, and it was fun meeting my professor and some of my classmates.”

The topic of masks brought differing reactions.

First-year student Silvina Herrera said, “Masks are necessary. I don’t even notice it when I have it on. It’s like I just forget about it.” 

It feels so weird…there’s no coffee! The book store is closed, there is nobody on the computers… it’s a ghost town.”

Second-semester student Sherene Gurrola

But business major Mohammad Alqazaq was not convinced the masks were helping: “It’s a weak solution for a bigger problem. There are holes in the side of these things. They don’t do anything.”

The safety measures in place at Moraine are enough for freshman Ayat Nakhleh, who said she feels “comfortable and safe here.”

Not everyone was happy to be back on campus.

“It’s kind of boring here. I miss my bed,” said Ameer Ziada, a freshman who is undecided, but is most interested in law. His only in-person class is COM 101.

 He said he preferred meeting virtually because he would be “watching Netflix and eating trail mix during my classes… I would stay off camera muted. Though I am getting better grades in-person.”

And, he said, “the one nice thing is that it’s easier to ask questions now.”

Still, leaving the house to come to campus feels like a breath of fresh air to many.

“Overall, I enjoyed today’s class. I was feeling good,” said first-semester student Isacc Recio.

Accounting professor Lisa Mittler said, “There is a sense of nervousness, but we’re excited to be back.”

Psychology professor Amy Williamson said the return to campus promotes an important sense of “normalcy” in our lives. 

Gurrola summed up her feelings this way: “I don’t think we’ll ever be what we were, but I am happy to be here.”

T’Naya Anderson, Gabel Dardovski, Kaitlyn Davies, Joey Fernandez, Valerie Olivares, Mariah Trujillo, Isacc Velasquez and Ryan Windle contributed to this report.