By Sophia Turgeon, contributing writer.
Since March of 2020, COVID has impacted everybody at UMF drastically, including commuters. In fact, the effects of COVID have affected commuters very differently than it may have affected on-campus students.
After returning to campus in fall 2020, on-campus students had a lot of expectations including social distancing, wearing masks, sheltering in place, getting tested, and keeping social circles on campus small that consisted only of Farmington community members.
Commuters had guidelines that weren’t as strict, but may have suffered more in the grand scheme of things.
Tom Tubman, sophomore here at UMF, feels as though he hasn’t had the opportunity to build a community inside the UMF campus and feels detached as a whole. “It’s definitely made things a lot harder than I expected. Building a community has essentially been a non-starter since I live so far away from campus. Until this semester, I spent a majority of my time around campus hanging out in my car because my sister is immunocompromised,” Tubman said.
Luckily with COVID restrictions loosening up, Tubman has been feeling much safer. With that being said, Tubman’s 2021 fall semester has been a lot better than the previous semester. “Since so much of the campus population is vaccinated I feel much more comfortable being around on campus. I feel a lot more engrossed in my classes and overall have enjoyed college much more this year than I did last year,” Tubman said.
Morgan Rogers, junior at UMF, has had some similar experiences with commuting that Tubman had. “Between driving to campus for some classes, but not all, I’d say that there were some negative effects, mostly my connection and immersion in those classes,” Rogers said.
From a different standpoint, Rogers feels as though the COVID restrictions placed upon students this semester haven’t been as drastic, but is excited to be back in the classroom. “The restrictions haven’t been all that impactful, for me, apart from having in-person classes again. That has helped hold my interest and allowed for in depth studies while in class. An interesting side effect from the covid-restrictions was a better class experience when we had to limit the number of students in a class. That meant that a professor was able to have more thorough interactions with fewer students at a time,” Rogers noted.
Though UMF has handled the harsh reality of COVID to the best of their abilities, Tubman believes that the restrictions put on who is allowed to visit campus are not as flexible as he’d like. “I’ve got a few friends at Orono and they want to come visit UMF, but they haven’t been able to since they aren’t a UMF student,” Tubman said.
Rogers however, found that though the accommodations were understandable, he felt as though there should have been more communication on where commuters should go between classes while waiting. “I found that their accommodations were acceptable. However, one thing that I would have asked for was more clarity as to where commuting students could be when on campus but not in class. I didn’t know that we had a commuter lounge until part way through last semester,” Rogers said.
Hopefully as the school year progresses, restrictions will lessen and commuters will feel more welcome on campus.
By Wylie Post, Contributing Writer.
There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted students’ mental health tremendously. September is National Suicide Awareness month. UMF has created new resources for students to access for mental health concerns as well as having several professors/admin that are always available to talk.
The mental health crisis in college students has skyrocketed since the pandemic. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in June 2020, over 40 percent of adults over the age of 18 reported they were struggling with mental health or substance abuse. The suicide attempt rate amongst teen girls has increased by almost 50 percent due to the pandemic, according to researchers from the CDC.
The question is why? Why are the rates so high?
Well, ever since the start of the pandemic, almost all college students have been stripped of using any social skills and experienced a sense of loneliness nobody has ever experienced before. Zoom became the new way of learning, and students had mixed feelings about it. Some are not so happy about remote learning while others found it nice to be alone and not in a physical classroom.
“I feel like everyone spent a lot more time alone than ever before and without the social aspect of it, it definitely made it worse,” UMF sophomore Sidney Belanger said while talking about remote and virtual learning.
Healthcare workers are feeling the same way. “The pandemic in itself has placed stressors on relationship building and it has created an environment for young adults to have very minimal contact,” Lisa Avery, R.N, BSN, practice in-home healthcare said. “Isolation has impacted their sense of self-value and importance, which separates them from having the true college experience.”
Many college students, especially those who just started last year, are experiencing difficulties finding locations on campus and meeting new people because of all the socialization they missed due to COVID protocols.
“They are missing out on opportunities in traditional college life because of social isolation, physical distancing, and masking,” Avery said. “The mask itself causes a separation from human expression, not to say that masking is bad, but human expression and emotions are vital to growing.”
However, UMF has allowed students access to multiple resources to help anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health struggles. SilverCloud is a new system that allows students to learn new coping mechanisms, social skill-building tools, and different self-guided programs for anxiety, depression, etc. The UMF mental health counselors are also a great resource when looking for more personalized treatment/help. Any professor you are comfortable with speaking and opening up to may also be happy to help.
When discussing resources for mental health for college students, there are multiple ways to go about it. Whether that is SilverCloud, licensed counselors, professors, or even a kind friend, these are all appropriate and healthy resources. Some students prefer different types of therapy.
“I listen to podcasts, some about mental growth. They help me have a better perspective on situations and myself,” Belanger said.
“Students need to identify a safe person they can express their feelings to. They need to identify what their safe environment is,” Avery said. “There are healthcare professionals and there are many options online for support groups, therapy, and counseling.”
No matter what you are going through, there are always people who are willing to listen and to help you in any way. With the pandemic slowly starting to fade out, even though it may not feel like it, students are still struggling. If you or anyone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health issues, feel free to talk to someone and find ways that help you the best. The National Suicide Hotline is 800-273-8255 and the Maine Statewide Crisis Hotline is 711.
By Ashley Ward, Assistant Editor and Secretary
FARMINGTON — Students are facing feelings of discomfort this semester as The University of Maine at Farmington campus makes an effort to return to how things were before COVID-19. Throughout the last 18 months, with the introduction and removal of COVID-19 barriers, students have been required to consistently relearn the changing social norms of the UMF campus.
Sophomore Katelyn Ryan said that the biggest change between the previous school year was the use of the campus dining hall. “I knew that seating was coming back but I didn’t realize the tables and chairs would be that close,” Ryan said. “I expected to have the option of grab-and-go more readily available too, it feels like a shock to be sitting down with people and using real plates and utensils.”
Second year students are now tasked with the challenge of relearning the social norms around campus. For upperclassmen, they likely have some amount of pre-pandemic college experience under their belt to pull from, but it can be especially daunting to be in to be a sophomore on campus and having no idea how to do anything, yet feeling pressured to have a sense of stability and social grace.
“It’s definitely something that I’ll have to get used to…I think I expected the adjustment to be more gradual rather than going from a 6-foot distance to a 6-inch distance…it’ll just take some time for me to adjust as someone who’s more introverted,” Ryan said.
Senior Brooke Miller said that one of the few obstacles left separating this school year from a pre-pandemic year is the mask policy. “The mask policy is interesting because it’s almost like a fusion between what I remember campus being like before and what I remember last year as,” Miller said. “It’s still a pandemic, but also feels like it’s not…Sometimes it generates a happy feeling in me, but sometimes it makes me feel frustrated because I want this to be over and for all of us to have done our accountability with COVID-19.
UMF, like all campuses across the country, was forced to adapt to COVID-19 in the spring semester of 2020 without much forewarning. Students, new and returning, waited for updates from administrators regarding what their school year might look like upon the return to campus for Fall 2020. This year, however, students have hope amidst their dismay surrounding the potential return of social freedoms, and such is reflected in the removal of social distancing obstacles campus-wide.
By Abby Pomerleau, Contributing Writer
After some sports weren’t able to play games during the fall 2020 athletic season, UMF is planning to have a successful fall athletics season next semester with scheduled games and events.
Teams who could play and practice were restricted to social distancing and wearing masks while practicing and student-athletes had to complete a form before every practice for a COVID-19 screening.
With the 2021 spring season approaching, the North Atlantic Conference (NAC) and the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC), the conferences UMF’s fall athletics play in, are planning competitive games and events. “Travel restrictions will be lifted by next fall, so all things point to us being able to travel and play outside of the state of Maine,” said Cynthia Pratt, head coach of the UMF field hockey team.
Although competitions are taking place, there will still be possible restrictions during the season, such as wearing masks, and the success of the season may depend on factors related to COVID-19 vaccinations. “I am pretty confident about having fall seasons that look and feel more like a normal season,” said Julie Davis, UMF’s Director of Athletics, in an email. “So much will depend on the state of the virus, including the vaccination rate. I won’t be surprised if there is still some masking required we’ve learned when they are used consistently and properly, they work to protect both ourselves and others. I am just hopeful that the context doesn’t require them to the degree they are now.”
Games and events may be resuming as normal, but other aspects of the season may change. “I feel like bus rides and hotel stays are going to look a bit different with more spacing being put in place” said Jonah Sautter, a current junior who plays for the men’s soccer team. Bus rides and hotels are places where teams bond. Having this built-in team bonding time taken away or altered may affect the morale of the team.
In the fall of 2020, teams did practices, but they were not able to compete. Having an entire year off of competition raises concern. “My only worries are for the players on my team and how taking an entire season off might affect them,” said Pratt. “Will they be ready in the fall? Will they once again regain that competitive spirit? It will be my responsibility as a coach to be sure they are focused and prepared. I can give them all the tools and then they have to commit to being the best they can be.”
As the 2021 season rolls around, hopes are high for the competitive season to go as planned. “I’m excited and looking forward to a sense of normalcy,” said Sautter. “It’s crazy to think all of these guidelines and rules have been in place for over a year now, but I just look forward to things beginning to go back to normal.”
The athletic department may have a new normal, but the importance of the game remains the same. “I am excited to coach games,” said Pratt. “I love competition and watching my players compete to the best of their ability. I love watching them get better at practice everyday and taking all the things we work on and apply it to a game situation.”
The expectation regarding fans is that they will be able to attend outdoor games as long as they are wearing masks and social distancing. The plans for the season as well as the topic of fans are subject to change as the fall season becomes closer.
To stay updated on fall athletics or get in contact with staff in the athletic department, visit athletics.umf.maine.edu.
University of Maine Farmington by Sam Shirley.
By Daniela Lilly Rodiles, Staff Writer
Chancellor Malloy announced to faculty, staff, and students of the University of Maine System (UMS) the return to normalcy through traditional and in-person college experience in the coming fall 2021 semester.
The prioritization and continuation of COVID-19 asymptomatic testing together with mask wearing and physical distancing will continue to be in place as a way to assure student and faculty safety for the ongoing spring semester and commencement plans.
“We’re kicking our planning into high gear to provide the most traditional, on-campus college experiences this fall that we can safely manage,” said Malloy. This return to normalcy is focused on resuming in-class instruction, campus activities for the community, and residence hall occupancy resembling pre-pandemic conditions on campus.
UMF students have regained a sense of hopefulness and confidence regarding the plans to return to the conventional college experience that most students knew before the start of the pandemic, and that we all continue to miss. “I feel relieved,” said Anika Slowing-Romero, a freshman majoring in Rehabilitation and Psychology. “This year has been extremely hard and not what I expected at all, college-wise. But I am very hopeful and excited for what’s to come in the next semester.”
Chancellor Malloy’s email became the topic of discussion and conversation between peers, lighting up the possibility of brighter days around the corner, whilst acknowledging the outstanding resilience and commitment that has led all of us to this great news. “Your health and safety, and the health and safety of our university communities, remains our top priority,” stated Malloy, as he confirmed the plans that rely on the pandemic-ending vaccines and health safety practices imposed by the UMS Scientific Advisory Board, as well as Maine’s public health authorities as the basis to keep the UMS community safe.
The plans for commencement at UMF continue to uphold a remote ceremony to celebrate the class of 2021 and their achievements. “We promise to create a wonderful, albeit virtual, celebration experience and program with distinct recognition and personal touches especially for you and your achievements,” stated President Edward Serna.
The University will continue asymptomatic strategies and monitoring for COVID-19 throughout the semester to assure the safety of all students and staff until the last week of the semester.