Student Government Voices: Maintaining Normalcy, Sanity, & Laughter During The Pandemic

In the Spring of 2022 Anne Winters, Associate Clinical Project Specialist, conducted interviews with two Frostburg State University students, four student government members, and Frostburg’s Senior Associate Athletic Director. She discussed with them how the social, environmental, and Covid-19 pandemic has impacted their careers, school-life balance, and their ability to mitigate and navigate the challenges that have arisen during the pandemics. In the following pages you will hear from Sydney Kerns, a student in Frostburg’s MAT-Secondary program, Dionne Pellew, an MAT-Elementary graduate, four individual members from Frostburg’s Student Government Association, and Rubin Stevenson, The Senior Associate Athletic Director.

Anne Winters: After two years of living with Covid and major social justice events, what do you think about your hopes for the future of education and social justice?

Lukas O’Brien, Student Affairs Chair, SGA, FSU: I feel as if the future is more pessimistic now than optimistic, especially for those who are preparing to graduate high school. My sister is getting ready to graduate and she doesn’t view the pathway to her future in education. I think we are seeing that with our retention rates here at Frostburg as well. We are asking so many questions regarding why that is happening, but it is right here in front of us: its Covid and social justice.

Maden Campbell, Senator, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, SGA, FSU: Education just seems so small in the scale of everything, when you ask high school seniors what they are going to do with their future it just seems like education is not on their mind since there are just too many things happening in the world that is distracting them from getting an education.

Angel Young, Senator, Student Affairs Committee, SGA, FSU: I’m a bit of a pessimist when it comes to “hopes for the future.” I don’t see much hope in the future of education and social justice. While there is much being done by advocates to foster truthful and inclusive education (e.g., critical race theory, African American and Native American history, etc.) The goals and actions of government at a state and federal level do not align with the goals of those advocating for change. Similarly, while there is much being done to facilitate social justice and social change at a grassroots level, there needs to be state and federal action in order for systemic change to take place, and the way things are now, I cannot see that happening in the near future.

Jasmine Bonomolo, Senator, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, SGA, FSU: Kids are getting affected by the learning environment, working with first graders has shown me that these kids didn’t get the foundation they needed to be successful. We’re gonna see kids who are behind because of how they had to start the important years. With social justice I don’t think a pandemic is going to change that. We’ve always had the issue and if anything it’s only gotten worse because we have a justice system that works against us.

Anne Winters: Have these events changed your view on your major or the career you want to pursue after you graduate?

Lukas: There is definitely mounting pressure on students right now. I have seen a lot of major changes recently, I think some students are dealing with stress in other parts of their lives which causes them to embrace an easier career path or degree during these times.

Mayden: My sister is also a high school senior, she really wants to be a nurse. She still is head-strong in support of this goal, but my mom is thinking this is not the best option for her and hoping she can open her mindset. This is mostly because of all the stress that was put on healthcare workers during covid.

Jasmine: It hasn’t. I still want to go into either adolescent psychology or industrial organizational psychology.

Angel: This has motivated me to pursue clinical psychology as a career after graduation. I would specifically like to open my own practice that specializes in working with minority individuals. While immediate systemic change may not be plausible my hope is that I can make an impact within my sphere of influence so that minorities can feel that they are seen, heard, valued, and that their concerns are addressed.

Anne: Do you feel that gun violence and other social ills against the people of color have increased during the pandemic?

Angel: Yes absolutely. The racially charged rhetoric of Donald Trump’s presidency and the biases of the news media in the years following have facilitated increased gun violence and social ills against people of color AND LGBT individuals. Specifically, that of African Americans, Latinx peoples, and Asian Americans.

Jasmine: I think we see it more because we’re in our phones more. It was always happening just a lot more cameras around to catch it.

Anne: In regards to the Covid-19 Pandemic, do you feel as though life is almost back to normal?

Mayden: A little bit, I feel like people have gotten used to wearing a mask now. You wear them everyday, you don’t leave the house without your mask, you have a mask in your car. I think that we are not getting back to normal but instead understanding that this is our new normal.

Angel: I feel in some ways life is back to normal; we’re able to gather in one place and host events. However, there is a new normal in that we have to take extra precautions (e.g., getting vaccinated for COVID-19 annually and wearing masking in public spaces) to protect ourselves from these variants.

Anne: Do you feel safer now, than the beginning of the pandemic, at student events and organizations?

Jasmine: I am pregnant and I feel like my safety is low due to the amount of un-vaccinated individuals.

Angel: I feel safer at students events and organizations because most of the time rules require participants to wear masks. Plus, I’d like to think that the majority of the on-campus population has been vaccinated.

Lukas: When I first got here for Fall of 2020, I was living at EdWood. During the first week I realized that I just did not feel safe so I ended up packing up, leaving, and switching to fully virtual for that semester. However now I am an RA so I do have a lot of contact with my residents. So, I am still a little afraid, but I think I am less afraid now because there are a lot of people on campus vaccinated and everyone wears a mask now. It is a relief to be here now after all that we have went through.

Anne: As a student, do you feel that with virtual learning, “the digital divide”, and access to the internet during covid has hampered the ability for you to learn and be the best student you can be?

Mayden: Last semester I took Math. I am not the brightest soul at math, but at the end of the day I have always passed math, but last semester I did not because it was virtual. I was not planning to take a virtual math class, but the class was changed from in-person to virtual the day before it started. I decided to take Statistics this semester and my professor is wonderful, and I am definitely understanding more now that it is in person.

Lukas: I am in the same boat as Madden with math classes. Last year I had a Statistics course that was supposed to be in person, but at the last minute it was switched to virtual. I wanted to finish it, but halfway through the semester I was so unhappy with my grad that I decided to withdraw. That was my first every “W”. I took the class again in person and received an A, it really does show the difference in learning environments when you are in person vs virtual for those tougher classes, like math.

Angel: I personally have not been impacted by the digital divide. I have access to internet and technology.

 

Anne: Are there courses that you took during the pandemic that were online or hybrid and you feel that had they been face-to-face you would have received a better grade?

 

Jasmine: Absolutely, 100%.


Angel: I received all As during the pandemic, but not without struggle. I definitely struggled with perfectionism, isolation

anxiety, burnout, and lack of motivation. So, it took a lot to get the grades I did.

Anne: Do you feel as though professors are sensitive to how life has changed for you as a student during the pandemic?

Angel: Most, if not all, of the professors I had were sensitive to how life changed for me as a student during the pandemic. At one point, I caught COVID and thankfully I had wonderful professors who were understanding and willing to give me time to recover and get back on track. But I understand the same can’t be said for others.

Jasmine: Some yes some no. Some people don’t grasp the real fear because there are some professors who don’t even believe in the pandemic.

Lastly, Anne asked each individual how other members of the SGA have helped them with stress during the pandemic and all of their responses can be easily summed up by Jasmine’s simple statement “we really just remember to find the laughs in life.”