Change in Campus Life at Christopher Newport

Those in the Upperclass reflect on the differences of campus now compared to March

~Grace Griles, Staff Writer~

It’s no mystery that this semester will be very different for all the Captains here on campus. With social distancing affecting events, classrooms, and residence halls on Christopher Newport’s campus many returning Captains admit that it doesn’t feel like the home they left in March, but the true question is despite these changes do the returning students of Christopher Newport still love the university enough to follow the admittedly frustrating protocols? Many people brag about Christopher Newport’s tight-knit community. Therefore, when it’s stripped away will its school spirit also dissipate, or was the tight-knit community a façade and the students are not missing any of the events Christopher Newport usually puts on?  

According to all the Christopher Newport upperclassmen who were interviewed, the overwhelming answer to that question was a simple “no.” Claire Gregory, a junior, named several events and even a fitness class she has missed due to social distancing, and when she was asked why she thought those events were so enjoyable she stated, “The students organize a lot of it (the events) instead of like in high school, so everything is actually people our age organizing stuff. So, it kind of makes it more relatable and fun.” Interestingly enough, Grace Taylor, a sophomore who is a part of CAB (Campus Activities Board) seemed to agree. She mentioned some of her personal favorite events which were the Fall Fest and Winter Fest. “It was insane, the amount of things you could do and the amount of people that were there. Also having it on the Great Lawn you could just like walk by and join because you know it was hard to miss,” (Taylor). She went on to explain that one of the things that made the event so great was that they were spontaneous and had the potential to bring everyone together. “I’ll definitely miss the spirit on campus that comes with that when people see that there’s an event and flock over there. It’s just a really fun time.” As Grace Taylor reflected on the past events, she recalled how different this year’s Welcome Back Party was from all the other events she had ever seen at Christopher Newport. “When I was working the Welcome Back event, for example, normally we just count to know who we had coming to an event, but this time we ended up counting and when there were more than fifty people we had to turn them away or tell them to wait.” 

It’s apparent that students will miss the extravagant events Christopher Newport put on, and due to COVID protocols those events will be rather different this semester, but what about the day to day life on campus? The upperclassmen who were interviewed were also asked about the energy in classrooms changing due to social distance, and Zach Estrada, a member of Delta Upsilon and the all-male acapella group Expansion, did not hesitate to comment on the classroom situation once he was asked. “The energy has definitely changed a bit because we are so far apart from each other and trying to mind our spaces. I feel like people are also less inclined to raise their hand in person but not so much online.” The theme of people being more outspoken online continued throughout most of the interviews. Aidan Stengel, a sophomore, also commented on how quiet people were in class but had something shocking to say about the online classes. “The virtual classes honestly feel normal. It’s weird. Whereas in the in-person class everyone feels on edge. It used to be kids wouldn’t care what they were doing in class. Somebody would sit there watching YouTube in the back with the volume on full blast. Now everyone is super on edge afraid to make the smallest movement.” All the students that were interviewed after Aidan were asked if they felt the same well and all of them agreed wholeheartedly. Which is odd considering six months ago online classes felt so far from normal.

The seniors who were interviewed expressed were proud of how well Christopher Newport and their fellow Captains were handling going to college during a pandemic. However, there is still new anxiety prevalent amongst upperclassmen who worry about being sent home. People like Grace Taylor, who has seen less than perfect social distancing occurring among students, expressed her frustration and anxiety about being sent home because of those people, but she admitted that she feels bad for the freshman who don’t get that opportunity to meet people on campus like she did last year. “When I see freshman doing that (not social distancing) I feel like that’s the one thing where I am like yeah they are acting a little stupid, but they’re trying their best to get out there and speak to people, but upperclassman who don’t adhere to those rules I think ok you have your people you don’t need to be breaking these rules and going to these parties.” This new underlying anxiety is especially prevalent amongst people like Kayl Williams, a senior and Theater Technician at the Ferguson Center, whose entire degree depends on being able to attend classes in person. He was not shy to praise Christopher Newport’s actions to keep their students safe. However, he also pressed that it’s now up to the students to make this a successful semester, and he had many profound thoughts to share on the topic.

 “I feel like CNU has put a lot of effort forward. It’s just that small little bit to make this really really good has to come from the students.” 

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