Seniors’ last quarter on campus cut short due to COVID-19


Catherine Buchaniec/The Daily Northwestern

Students with their diplomas during commencement in 2019. NU was ranked 9th in National Universities by U.S. News & World Report for the second year in a row.

Zoe Malin, Reporter

Communication senior Lauren Gold has looked forward to her last Spring Quarter at Northwestern for months. She completed all her coursework by Winter Quarter, so instead of spending hours in the classroom, Gold planned on focusing on her time with friends. She looked forward to road trips, cooking and taking a non-credit course.

COVID-19, also known as the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, put all those plans on hold. Six individuals on the Evanston campus have tested positive for the virus, and across the country, there’s been more than 11,500 cases and 179 deaths as of Thursday night.

Due to concerns associated with COVID-19, the University extended spring break by a week and announced that Spring Quarter classes will be held remotely for at least three weeks. Gold said this announcement caused her and many seniors she’s friends with question how long they now have left on campus.

“Online classes cut into how long we will be able to spend together in the spring,” Gold said. “But if we can’t go back at all… my friends and I aren’t thinking about that yet.”

Like Gold, many seniors are disappointed about scheduling changes made to their last quarter at NU. Weinberg senior Alec Chang said he saw the spring as an opportunity to engage in more social activities. He didn’t have much time to see friends during Fall and Winter Quarters since he was planning Northwestern Dance Marathon as a member of the organization’s executive board. NUDM 2020 was canceled days before it was set to take place out of COVID-19-related precautions, which Chang said was “extremely disappointing.” With the in-person component of Spring Quarter now abbreviated, Chang said he’s even more upset.

“I think we’re going to lose our last opportunity to see each other and connect,” Chang said.

Chang is also concerned about academics. To fulfill the biology major at Northwestern, he only has one course left to take during Spring Quarter — but it’s lab-based. Now that classes are online for three weeks, Chang is worried about whether his lab will take place.

He is also in the process of applying to medical schools. The March and April MCAT exams have been canceled globally due to COVID-19, forcing students to reschedule for a different month. Chang thinks this may affect the pool of applicants for medical schools across the world.

Unlike Gold and Chang, Medill senior Amanda Gordon watched NU react to the COVID-19 pandemic from a distance. She’s been in New York City completing her Journalism Residency at Vulture since January. Gordon finished her JR remotely since the company implemented a work from home policy in response to the outbreak.

Despite her time in Vulture’s office ending early, she said watching breaking news unfold while at the office was a learning experience.

Gordon looks forward to reuniting with friends in Evanston in April, many of whom she hasn’t seen since before winter break. However, she said this is “wishful thinking.”

“No one predicted this,” said Gordon. “There are so many other pressing issues and vulnerable communities, so you have to look at the bigger picture.”

Commencement and graduation ceremonies have also been on seniors’ minds. The University of Illinois system, for example, has already postponed graduation ceremonies in May. The University of Chicago, however, has not made any plans to do so yet. Among other schools in the Big Ten, nine schools have postponed commencement, while five schools — including NU — have not made any announcements. Most of the schools, however, do not operate on the Quarter System — and thus had ceremonies scheduled for May.

NU’s Commencement is currently scheduled to take place on June 19, but experts vary in their predictions about how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last.

If Northwestern continues online classes for all of Spring Quarter, Gold said some seniors are discussing returning to Evanston in June. Gold isn’t convinced that’s a good idea. She would be “devastated” if Spring Quarter had to be completely remote, but recognizes that it may be a necessary step for the University to take.

“If it’s not safe for students to come back to school, I don’t think it’s right for any of us to come back,” Gold said. “This situation is crazy, and as much as I’m hopeful, I know it’s completely out of my control.”

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