Covid on Campus

Today our organization is publishing a collection of interviews we have started with college students, faculty, and administration on the challenges of COVID. This initiative is being led by Gabrielle Perez, our assistant who recently graduated from college herself. If you are interested in being interviewed for our website, or if you have any comments about the interviews posted, please let us know by contacting

Allison's Interview (Student)

Name? Demographics? School? Field of study? Degree? Are you taking classes on or off-campus?

Allison F., Haitian, first-generation American, First to go to college in her family. Palm Beach State College, Nursing, Getting AA then transferring to a four-year university. Classes are all online. 

I don’t mind it. 

 This is your first semester of college! How have classes been going for you so far this semester?

My classes are pretty good right now. My teachers have been lecturing and at the end of class, they submit everything through BlackBoard and that's how we do the assignments. Every teacher has their own specific way of doing things.

 What did you learn last semester that helped you transition to online courses this year?

We did it through Google classroom and if there were students that missed the class the teachers would record every class so they could go back and watch it again. Did that help you when you started school this year? In a way yes.

 How have your professors and school accommodated you and your peers?

I think the professors are actually pretty great because I was expecting them to be strict about everything but they've been pretty much understanding. Like the other day I couldn't get on to the class and I emailed the professor saying I didn't know if there was something wrong with my computer or the wifi and he said no I understand it happens to me too. And I think that it's cool that the teacher is very understanding and they know that there are going to be certain complications when it comes to doing everything online. Well be in the middle of class and the teacher will be kicked out of nowhere. It's really great that they understand that it's new to everybody and I appreciate my teachers for understanding. 

Peers' understanding as well? 

Absolutely! I was expecting… A lot of people say to expect some immaturity. But everyone is pretty much chill and they seem mature about everything. I expect nothing less. I mean we’re all grown college kids. I don’t think they should be acting immature at a time like this.

 Do you have all of the equipment you need to take classes online?

Computer and books are online

 Thoughts if classes start back up on campus this semester? 

I don’t know why they would change it now. Everyone has already made their set schedules. It would be very stressful especially for me if I just had to switch right now. 

PBCSD - The teacher had already planned out the first half of the school year now if they decide to open up they are going to have to go back to the drawing board. Okay, how am I going to do this? Especially now they are thinking how am I going to keep these kids protected. They've been at home this whole time. It's going to be hard for them. 

 Do you look forward to going to class on campus?

Absolutely. I want to go to school on campus but I care about my safety more. I don’t see the problem with going to school online. It's the same exact thing. You don’t have to get up and get dressed. All you have to do is get your books, sit in front of the screen, and listen. I was definitely excited to get the college experience but we are in the middle of the coronavirus and I’m not going to catch it. And they haven't even said it's clear. They don't even have a vaccine for this yet. They had a vaccine and people were taking it and people were getting better, okay maybe we can go back. And you can't ever go to the hospital. They will most likely keep you because they don't want it to spread.  

 What would make you feel safe if you were to return?

  • Lower infection rate? Last 14 days Florida has accounted for a little under 43,000 of the 533,000 in the US.
  • Are there certain measures that you think schools should take if in-person learning continues?

I would say both. Everywhere you go there are measures you have to take. You have to have a mask on. You have to stay away from people. The measures are a given. They would have to figure out a way to lower the death rate and the rates of people having it. There could be someone sitting next to you and they have it but they feel fine. And that's crazy. I could have it right now and I feel fine and I go talk to someone else and they get terribly sick and end up passing away from it. Once they figure out how to cure it or slow it down. I think that will make everyone feel a little safer. Not only that but when they do decide to send everyone back to school they need to figure out what the seating arrangements are going to be. Are the teachers going to be in a separate room? I feel like they are trying to rush it. They haven’t really thought it through. They are just thinking how are we going to get the kids back to school but it's not something that's going to happen 2 to 3 months from now. It's going to take time. I feel like we're in Ebola all over again. But this has killed hundreds of thousands of people. We've been out of school for over half a year and they think they are just going to send us back. No, it's not going to work out that way. They need to really really take their time and figure it out. And they've had all this time to figure it out so what makes them think they are going to figure it out two to three months from now. You have people sitting and eating out at restaurants. I mean really?

 Did your grades or worth ethic suffer last semester when we first went into lockdown in March?

I don't really know. I'm a procrastinator but I get things done when they need to be done. I know when I have to get things done. There are days when I have felt very unmotivated but I think everyone has felt that way over the pandemic. When you are stuck in the house every single day, it’s very discouraging. but I can't afford to get lazy because I’m paying for school now. No, I have to go to class. I think I'm very cautious about that. Plus I try to give myself enough time to slack off.

 Throughout the time that you have spent in school online, what is the one thing you’ve noticed that you need now that you didn’t need before COVID-19 that is making the educational process easier or better? Tangible or not. Direct or indirect.

I realized that I need more quiet time especially because it's not just me, I have my siblings here. Everyone is online right now. I realize that we all need to be in our own personal space. Because we are always around each other. So I need more personal space and time. Like one area to myself so I can really concentrate and focus on what my professors are talking about. 

 Are you living at home? How are your parents coping? Do you have any siblings in school?

My siblings are taking it pretty well. They want to go back to school. They have literally been home since March. My parents haven't let them go out at all. They are over it but considering we just lost someone really close to us due to the virus my parents are reawakening and they were going to send them back to school. Like are you guys crazy there are like a million kids that's not going to work. My mom wants to keep them home for a month or so and see. I asked my parents, Why don't you ask the kids what they want. If they feel safe they can go and if not they can stay home. It’s great that the school district is giving them an option and not just deciding for them. Most kids seem to like doing a class online

 What kind of things have you been doing for your mental health that helped you deal with COVID-19?

I pray a lot. I have my bible and devotional book. I talk to my sister a lot. I facetime my best friend every day. I try to come out of my room to give myself a little break. When you're stuck in the house you are eating and sleeping and watching Netflix all day every day. After a few hours, I think it's healthy to get up, maybe do some cleaning, read a book, maybe take a nap. Something to get you away from the screen.


Adella Interview (Professor)

Name? School? Field of education? Are you teaching on campus or off?


Does your school have any plans to return back to on-campus learning this semester? If so, what safety measure would you want to see in place?

The college is prepped for online only for the rest of the semester. October they will be making a decision on whether to go back in the spring. I plan on going back in the spring.

Do you feel comfortable continuing with online learning until the end of the semester?

Yes. I've put enough work into it. We have had to put a lot of work into teaching online. (just got certified to teach online)

How have classes been going so far? How are students responding to going back to school?

Week 2. They've been doing pretty well so far. I've been doing a lot of experimentation. The first two to three weeks of class are just getting the students (especially in the fall with a lot of new students) is getting them into a new routine. Making sure they are getting their books, checking their email, making sure they know about the lab. We do go over some academic stuff in the first week but not a lot. It's been pretty normal. I have some students who are really into the chatbox and have been chatting during class. And that's been helpful but I still have a lot of kids that are pretty quiet. The hardest part for me is not being able to see their faces so if I’m explaining something I have to be like “does that make sense” a lot because I can't see their actual response. So just let me know. And that's been one of the more awkward things. I haven't had them put their cameras on because of bandwidth issues. Especially that first day. I teach early in the morning and then late at night so we don't have too many issues with the bandwidth than they do at peak time but I’m definitely very conscious of that issue. They can put on their cameras if they want to but I don't necessarily need to see them and also the fact they might be in areas where they are comfortable showing where they are. I had to do a lot of work making the room where I teach more presentable. I'm trying to be as accommodating as possible. But there are professors that think differently. It is the students' responsibility to attend class or not. The college had been leading up to this. I had a lot of students who would say that they were having trouble getting up in the morning and coming to class and we were already talking about maybe we should start teaching online and giving students more options. And now that we have actually done it I don't know if it works that well but well see what the future brings.

How are you addressing the virus with your students? Any specific lesson plans or discussions you have had or would like to have with them?

I’m trying not to talk about it, to be honest. I think we are all tired of talking about it. I’m probably going to add in a few articles into one of my classes because we talk about race, class, and poverty in America and I want to bring in a few new articles that talk about how the virus has affected this stuff. It's more topical. I've actually found that I want my classes to be normal. I have colleagues that think differently. If I have students that want to talk about it I will absolutely talk about it but I'm just trying to focus on here's what I'd do during a normal semester. And let's focus on that. Last semester I talked about it more. I told them the places that we're hiring. And some of them were glad to hear it and some of them were like I need to get out of the house. I like to do announcements at the beginning of class. For the most part, I'm not going to make an effort to talk about it. And talk about their feelings. I don't know if that kind of discussion is super helpful. I have really mixed feelings about it. 

In a lot of job situations, a lot of people are afraid to speak up because they are afraid of being penalized. Especially in public service jobs. And I feel like a lot of the students are the same way, they might not think that it's okay to express themselves verbally. I like to give them paper topics so they can express their options.

What is the one thing you need now that you didn’t need before COVID-19 that is making the educational process easier or better? Tangible or not. Direct or indirect.

I’m really glad I bought a brand new computer. I think one of the biggest things that my colleagues might have an issue with is having space at home to do their work. And the college has been flexible with that to a point. I do have colleagues that are working from campus but they didn't require us to which was really nice. They made the decision to work on campus or be on campus for certain times. I wish they would be more flexible. There are sometimes times when I go “aw I need that but it's at my desk” and I can only go twice a week for two hours. I’m actually going to have to give my students the day off so I can go to campus. 

Some of my colleagues have kids. 

I had to put effort into making sure it was clean and that It's presentable on camera and not full of distractions. I'm lucky that I have that space already so it wasn't a major imposition. 

I'm having my students use Blackboard Collaborate so they didn't have to download another app. They are so similar. 


Megan Interview (Professor)

Name? School? Field of education? Are you teaching on campus or off?

Megan USF academic advisor in the honors college. I direct the program for the honor of the living-learning community. 

ON/ hybrid on campus once a week in covid

We have been working remotely for most of my advising appt since march. We have some face to face classes right now. In the honors college, our course is hybrid so the students can choose to either attend face to face or come in virtually and the professor shows up and the students that are face to face can interact with the virtual students on a screen and they use Microsoft teams to come in and everyone can see each other and join in the same conversation. The professor is actually there. And that's just for the honors college courses but each of the different classes. We all use Microsoft teams which are supported by the university. All of the professors have the agency to do synchronous or asynchronous or face to face classes.

What safety measure have you and your school taken before the semester began?

We have several different tiers of safety measures. The uni itself has put signage everywhere and they are requiring daily symptom checks sent out via email. And if you are a student, faculty, or staff member that has indicated that you will be on campus even a few times during the semester you have to sign the daily symptom checker. Whether or not you are going to be on campus that day and if you are feeling fine, and don't have any symptoms of covid and you have not been knowingly in contact with some with COVID-19 in the last 24 hours then you get a pass to come onto campus that has a QR code to come into campus. And the professor is supposed to check that you have a pass to come into class every time you meet. They also have one-way traffic signs in every building and around campus. They have put emergency tape over every other chair so that no one can sit next to each other and they are forced to social distance. In the honors college, we have someone stationed at the front door and you can only come in one entrance where we have a big plastic screen around the front desk to protect student workers and students and staff who come into the building. We also have hand sanitizer there. Before and after each class, staff and students and faculty wipe down their area with cleaning products as well. That's provided by the college and USF. And USF also purchased masks for all students staff and faculty who will be attending on campus. We are also doing random testing. So anyone who consents to be on campus at any point also consents to random testing. They may opt-out but may be asked to quarantine for two weeks if they decide not to get tested. And any students who live in the dorms who test positive during random testing, we have a quarantine dorm set up just for students who have contracted COVID-19. They have also closed down some of the dining facilities so that there's lots less traffic in lots of different areas. And inside the dining facilities they have taped off every other sit and you can't have groups of more than 4 students. YOu have to wears masks when you are not physically seated at a table and eating. And there's one-way traffic flow in there as well. And big plastic screens at every food counter and someone handing out drink cups specifically to each student so that they aren't touching utensils or cups that other students will also touch.


Of 63.000, 40,000 have confirmed that they are coming to campus at some point. But it honestly looks really dead. It looks like no one is on campus but I know there are at least 3200 students still living in the dorms. But normally we have 10,000 students living in the dorms. I think most of our offices are at 50% capacity with 50% of people working remotely or switching back and forth so not 100% of staff members are on campus every time. As for advising we have been completely remote since March. 

Is there anything that was or should be changed going forward?

They've made extensive changes and they are in constant contact and constantly updating the information which I think is hopeful. I think that the best-case scenario would have been if we had gone completely online but I think that would have presented some challenges. So we have a lot of international students who can't come into the country because of restrictions either with their embassies or with the US canceling student visas and so those students are attending classes virtually and if it's asynchronous class, sometimes they are 10 or 12 hours ahead of us. And so with some of their classes like calculus for someone who is in Pakistan or India, Kazakhstan we have some students there, we have some students in Italy, France, it's 2 o’clock in the morning their time when they are having to take a calculus test. And so it would require a really big overhaul which is something I'm not sure anyone was prepared for but their asynchronous courses that students can take and there's the pro that they get participate in those classes at their own pace on their own time but they also don't get the type of support as they would get with meeting directly with students and their professors and so I'm not sure if there is a really good answer. Everything is so new and we are starting to figure out what works and what doesn't and so we can make changes that all different types of students are supported in this frame.

How have classes been going so far? How are students responding to going back to school?

I think the first two weeks were really difficult to even for our honors students. They are balancing a lot of different platforms right now so they're on Microsoft teams, they're on campus, they're trying to figure out how to balance several different classes that are completely online. And I think for some of them it has been both easier and more motivating to be in a face to face classes so the students that are living on campus typically have one or two face-to-face classes and the rest of them are online. So it was a struggle to figure out how to manage all of those different courses and the due dates and everything that had already been laid out for the semester. Also difficult and equally difficult is the isolation that comes from being in online classes and having to physically distance from friends. In our dorms, students are not allowed to have guests included other guests living in other dorms on campus so that we can monitor contact tracing and try and keep the spread of the virus down which is great but for public health and safety but also not great for mental health. So students felt very isolated which can lead to more depression and they're not leaving their dorms very frequently and in some cases, they've felt no supported esp for first-year students who are away from their families for the first time and in a totally new state where they cant go and explore the city as you might normally be able to do when you first come into a new city because everything is operating in a different way and socially distancing. But students have reported that they are starting to feel much more confident this week. They are meeting with their advisors, they are encouraged to join clubs that we are doing online as well. For the protection and safety of students, they are not allowed to gather in groups of more than 10 but of course, we also have students that are violating those policies so even though we have really stringent policies in place and other students are saying to other students hey please don't get to parties and please don't take you masks off we don't want to get sent home. But there are always going to be students who just take those risks anyway or who feel like they, you know they are young and invincible and if they maybe feel like it isn't going to be such a big deal. They don't recognize the risk that it poses to other people when they are in the grocery store and restaurants or when they are living or working with other people with compromised immune systems and so of course we've had students congregating in front of the villages, at night they are in groups without wearing any masks. And housing is doing what they can to make sure that they are watching out for these students and being out there and making sure there is always someone there to reinforce to students that they need to be wearing their masks but we can't control everything, and we can't watch students all the time. We don't wanna be a surveillance society. We want students to know that they should be doing these things for ethical reasons and to protect the health and safety of their peers but that doesn't always happen. 

How are you addressing the virus with your students? 

I do notice that students in meeting with have different issues. The issues that they are having are less about their classes or grades and more about their ability to prepare for their careers because they can't do face to face events like volunteering or shadowing physicians or internships and they're also more worried about their personal safety and that of their friends and parents. We also have a lot of international students whose parents or relatives who have died because of covid like right at the beginning of the school year. So I think if we're not seeing students more its that the issues that they are coming to advisors with are much more personal and much more in touch with this idea that they are suffering a little in terms of loneliness, mental health, and capacity to balance everything that they're expected to balance while still juggling the demands of having to protect themselves and others and social distance.

How have you been helping your students deal with issues surrounding COVID-19? Do you have any goals in mind for your students when it comes to navigating our seemingly new norm for the time being?

We have a lot of resources at the university that is still up and running including students of concern and victim of advocacy. They can schedule a remote appt with their mental health counselors in our health center doing drop-in appointments and scheduled appointments. They also have group activities like meditation group counseling sessions. Check-in sessions for students who are dealing with issues surrounding covid but also issues surrounding the civil rights movement and the call for stronger connections to our black students on campus. So there's a lot going on almost to the extent that students are overwhelmed by all of the things that are going on. Our students who are living on campus were not cleared to have a lot of face to face event so normally we would be doing ice cream socials or going for walks or going to the movies or have paint events and we are not allowed to do that until we are in phase three for the most part. And so instead of getting out and moving away from the screen and getting a break from their classes, we are doing things virtually which for them is just another several hours in front of a screen. And so a lot of them opt not to attend those events or feel overwhelmed or pressured by the number of events they have to do on the screen because it means again they are sitting in front of a screen for several more hours a day than they are used to. So some other things that I encourage them to do are to get outside and walk and exercise and do check-in and even if they don't have any questions about academics to just touch base with someone in advising so that they have someone to talk to. And now that we have Microsoft teams I’ve been encouraging students to even just send me a team's chat message. This is a generation that's used to texting and doing group messages and so I've got a lot of students esp international students who will just send a text and I feel like I can help them really quickly and I feel supported at the moment. 

What is the one thing you need now that you didn’t need before COVID-19 that is making the educational process easier or better? Tangible or not. Direct or indirect.

Honestly, I think what people need the most is breaks. So I didn't realize how often when I was, even when I was taking classes face to face during course work at USF or in my capacity as an advisor how often I just needed to step away from the computer, have personal contact with someone, do a loop around the building or outside or go to Starbucks and get coffee and I think I've been more reluctant to take breaks because I'm in front of a computer all day. And I feel like okay what happens if someone calls me on teams or needs me right away or starts a chat with me or I have a meeting in 15 minutes because there are no breaks like we used to have because we physically have to walk to buildings and now we just have back to back to back meetings and my students are doing the same thing. We are constantly connected to screens and we feel like we have to be on 24/7 answering emails, doing assignments, being available for professors and students and staff, and emails. So I think that that's contributing to people’s sense of being overwhelmed and I think what we need is for educators and for admin to encourage staff, facility, and students to take frequent breaks and prioritize self-care because it's easy to forget that we are in a pandemic when we are remote and isolated and doing the work, doing the job, doing the learning obviously takes precedence because that's what you're there to do but you have to be a whole person too. And part of that is making sure that you can be fully present for doing your job as a teacher, or doing your job as a student is to be making sure that you are taking good care of yourself. 

And the growing urgency to recognize that everyone does need internet. Esp. students from low-income backgrounds and students in international places and even students who live in more remote and rural places in Florida. They don't have good internet access and if you don't have a computer or laptop that has the most updated technology its impossible to use systems like teams and zoom or even the things that you need to do word processing so it's really crucial that every student had good internet access and reliable technology and that's something that not always affordable.