With the significant increase in the vaccination rollout in Walla Walla and the United States during the last couple of months, there has been an increased sense of optimism and hope that things will return to a certain degree of normalcy for the next fall semester. This has led many, myself included, to think about what a “normal” college experience will look like. I’m sure that such an idea isn’t difficult to imagine for some, but I found myself astonished that I cannot picture anything besides the experience with COVID-19, which is probably fueled by the fact that I’m a first year.
Nonetheless, it might be unrealistic to expect things to entirely revert to how they were pre-pandemic. However, in light of the vaccines and the possibility of achieving herd immunity as a campus, together with the fact that we have been doing well with taking necessary precautions, there is still space to be quite hopeful.
President Kathy Murray sent an email on Friday, April 23, regarding the plan for the fall that highlights a lot of what I believe the fall should look like, such as an increase in the normal class capacity, “normal living and dining, lots of campus activities [and] athletic activities.” These activities are aspects of Whitman campus life that have been compromised due to the pandemic and which would all be wonderful to experience first-hand.
One other significant aspect that I’m looking forward to on behalf of the incoming first year students would be the ability to participate in an in-person orientation, which is a rite of passage the current first years never got to experience. With proper execution and care, the incoming class will have more opportunities to relate to each other and form friendships.
For club leaders or members who pride themselves on using their outdoor events as a way to bond with incoming and present students, the final move to an outdoor setting would do a lot of good. I’m sure leaders have had enough of using Zoom for meetings and events to last a lifetime, so it is interesting to see how community-building and development will move forward from here on. In-person interaction is also significant to fostering community.
That being said, the way things are going and plans for the fall semester make me feel enthusiastic and hopeful for what lies ahead. Fingers crossed that we can return to something akin to the pre-pandemic era. All the guidelines in place now and those set out for the future seem effective for ensuring a return to campus that works well for everyone. For now, the best we can do is soldier on.