Following the University’s return to in-person instruction after more than a year of online learning, students and faculty are reflecting on this year’s greatest triumphs and challenges as the semester draws to a close. The community’s reflection on this year looks a bit different from past years, though, as they discern what can be derived from the technological shift and what aspects of in-person education are truly irreplaceable.
For communication studies professor Patrick McDonnell, the return to in person was enhanced by the technological tools he was forced to familiarize himself with during lockdown. “Many educators needed a tech upgrade, including myself, and COVID provided that opportunity with increased instruction and education in delivering courses online,” McDonnell said.
He continued, “Online learning was very beneficial for certain aspects of my courses, especially in writing instruction, where I could really access and engage with student’s works in ways that are difficult in person.” McDonnell went on to praise the privacy of breakout rooms and the flexible nature of online learning.
However, despite these benefits, McDonnell said that he was relieved and grateful to return to being in person, “I have taught all face-to-face classes this year. Attendance has been high, participation has been high, and students want to be in class. There is tremendous joy and energy in my classes, and an appreciation for in-person instruction like never before,” he said. “Students have suffered immense pain and loneliness over the past few years and are seeking to make up for lost social time.”
His statements were echoed by sophomore business analytics and marketing major, Meghna Prasanth, who expressed her enthusiasm toward experiencing college in person. “It’s my second year at USF, but my first time getting to experience the culture and student life, which has been a super exciting process for me,” she said.
Prasanth commended the University’s social events throughout the year, citing Donaroo and Day of the Dons as some of her favorites, “Last year, I was able to meet some fellow students through social media pages and group chats, but that has been nothing compared to the bonds I’ve been able to form living with my roommates in LoMo East and meeting people at different on-campus functions.”
Throughout the semester, USF has hosted a plethora of on campus events including CAB’s annual Halloween celebration, Fright Night, the Donaroo music festival with headliner E-40, and the highly successful Day of the Dons fundraiser, which raised over $1.8 million for various University programs.
In addition to these traditional, annual events, the University has also hosted sporadic student events in Gleeson Plaza throughout the semester, such as the Stress Less Day, where attendees were treated to free massages and participated in activities designed to help them relax and recharge.
For sophomore biology major Julia Riad, the transition to in-person education was difficult at first but eased over the course of the semester. “Initially it was very hard to make the transition, especially after living at home for so long, but I’ve gotten to meet so many of my peers and make a lot of friends,” Riad said. “I feel like my education benefited immensely from going back in person.”
The year was not without its set of challenges. For Riad, the biggest adjustment was finding a balance between her mixed-modality classes. “A huge challenge for me was still having some remote classes last semester,” she said. “I understand that it was inevitable. But, some professors went asynchronous, which made learning even more difficult. I wish there had been more consistency with online learning teaching styles.”
The University has also seen a fair amount of setbacks this year, specifically within the Athletics Department. As the Foghorn previously reported in October, a Sports Illustrated report detailed a history of sexual misconduct allegations against players on the men’s soccer team.
In March, news broke that former USF baseball coaches were being sued by players for cultivating an “alleged sexualized environment.” Most recently, the Foghorn reported that former players from the USF women’s basketball team are suing both the head coach and the University for allegations of abuse.
In the face of these events, USF students have bound together to create a safer community that will adequately serve them in the way that it is supposed to. It’s On USFCA, a student lead group for sexual assault awareness and prevention, organized demonstrations such as the Oct. 7 Survivor Speakout Rally and Community Vigil for survivors of sexual abuse and a follow up Speakout Rally April 29.
Ultimately, the return to in person reminded us all of the importance of interpersonal connection and brought light to ways the University can improve moving forward. This year has been one of growth and learning for the entire USF community.