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A fall without first-years: Ten incoming students weigh in

By
Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Herald circulated a form asking incoming first-year students how they felt about the University’s three-term hybrid plan for the 2020-21 academic year, which means their class will not come to campus until spring 2021. Ten responses are listed alphabetically below.

The following submissions have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Melissa Aldana, Dumont, NJ:

I think the plan was really comprehensive and addressed concerns. Of course, there is no plan that would have left everyone happy, but I think it did a good job of making sure upperclassmen graduated on time and first years could have a more “normal” intro to college life — with the hope that spring and summer are better than the fall in terms of the pandemic and restrictions.

Augustus Bayard, Anna Maria, FL:

When I first heard about Brown’s plan for first-years, I was frankly pretty frustrated. Now that I’ve had more time to grow accustomed to the plan, though, I think in the long run it might be the best option for us first-years, allowing us two in-person semesters and a (hopefully) more normal introduction to campus life at Brown. Still, that doesn’t mean I’m not absolutely dreading the limbo the school has left us in for the rest of this year. A single online class, while nice, will hardly keep anyone occupied for four months.

Noble Brigham, Philadelphia, PA: 

As a first-year, I was blindsided by the three-term plan. I love Brown, but I feel betrayed given the NYT op-ed Christina Paxson wrote April 26th, which now seems strategically written to lure admitted students. The plan sabotages this fall and summer 2021 for us. We will not be able to work next summer and will only have several weeks between freshman and sophomore years, increasing the likelihood of mental burnout. Meanwhile, we are left scrambling to find opportunities for the fall at a time when internships are scarce and we have missed deadlines because of Brown’s delayed response.

Patrick Connor, Austin, TX: 

Brown’s plan keeps the entire freshman class together and is designed to give first-years as much in-person instruction as possible. Before the plan was announced, I deeply considered deferring enrollment for a year (and submitted a proposal to do so). Socially isolated in the COVID-19 hotspot of Texas, I had many concerns about what a college experience might look like in the fall, and I didn’t think it was the best choice for me. The current plan is the only realistic plan I can envision, and as a result, I withdrew my proposal to defer.

Courtesy of Patrick Connor

Alejandro Ingkavet, Brooklyn, NY: 

I’m more than just disappointed that Brown seemed to prioritize every other year except rising first-years in the fall. I believe it disproportionately affects low-income students who rely on summer jobs and who cannot live off their parents through the fall.

Courtesy of Alejandro Ingkavet

Ruhma Khawaja, Oswego, NY: 

I found the trimester system to be confusing at first, but then I understood the administration‘s goal of providing a proper first-year experience. By the time we come to campus, restrictions will be eased and we can have a somewhat normal freshman year, which I am very grateful for. Having said that, this plan does prevent students from obtaining summer jobs, which are vital for those in financial need, but I anticipate the administration will work with students based on specific situations. I’m sad that 2020 isn’t exactly what I had pictured, but I am excited to join the Brown community!

Courtesy of Ruhma Khawaja

Nick Kolbas, Needham, MA: 

Initially, I was thoroughly frustrated that after my class lost prom, graduation, and more at the end of high school, we would lose our first fall semester in college, plus next summer break. Now I realize that an extra summer on campus under relatively normal circumstances is far better than beginning my college experience in the fall with social distancing disruptions. Although controversial, I think Brown made the right decision. 

Carleigh Oberkfell, Charlotte, NC: 

I feel frustrated. I understand and truly respect that Brown wants to give us a “normal college experience”, but in reality they’re isolating us from our peers at home (who we won’t be able to see in the fall or summer), providing us with ample opportunity to forget our past learnings, and then giving us an endless first two years of college. Going to school with COVID-19 restrictions would definitely not be ideal, but the current plan just seems to promote an environment festered with academic floundering and exhaustion. In summary: I do love Brown, but I’m scared.

Aicha Sama, Dakar, Senegal: 

It’s very disappointing that we will have to wait much longer than expected to be on campus, but I understand that it is for our safety. I appreciate that we will still have opportunities to interact and learn in the fall; however, I’m concerned about the transition between freshman and sophomore year — it may be too short and stressful.

Eddie Woods, Columbia, MD: 

When rumors of spring-summer first circulated, I was as shocked and sad as anyone else. After some thought, however, I feel better about it. The later we wait to go to school, the more feasible it becomes that we will be able to have some semblance of normal campus life. We’ll also benefit from Brown’s semester of experience with safety regulations and emergency responses. No solution is perfect, but I feel lucky to even have two semesters on campus. Also, I am privileged to have a fall job available — Brown should work to help all first-years have this option.

Courtesy of Eddie Woods

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