College seniors, including myself, are in a puzzling situation trying to cope with something unlike anything in our lifetime frame of reference. Unprecedented is the word that the world is weary of hearing, but it captures the impact of the current situation. The campus here at the University of Indianapolis has been basically closed, along with many other campuses across the nation. Classes have been moved online and all spring sports have been cancelled as a precautionary response to the spread of COVID-19, commonly known as the coronavirus.
With all of these life-changing events taking place in such a sudden manner, students have experienced struggles that no one foresaw just a few weeks ago. However, seniors have undoubtedly been affected in the most unfortunate manner. Being a senior myself, I can speak of many of the misfortunes that we’ve experienced. With all of the changes being made, I think that the inconveniences such as going home and switching all classes to an online format, are issues that pale in comparison to being uprooted from the last couple months of our college experience.
Besides the satisfaction of working on the final semester of a bachelor’s degree, the culmination of the college experience includes the last several weeks of enjoying friendships that have developed over a few years. We also looked forward to the last weeks of extracurricular activities that are tied to our identity within the university. The experience of being in the same proximity of our peers, friends and mentors, that is unique to attending a traditional college, came to an end as strangely as waking from a bad, confusing dream. We lost the last six weeks of this experience, as well as the chance to gradually process the usual goodbyes that come at the end of a school year, especially one’s senior year, as we are going our separate ways. The last time I saw my friends and teammates, I didn’t say goodbye, not realizing it would be our last time together in our UIndy setting. And the tradition, celebration and rite of passage of a graduation ceremony will not be as expected.
I can speak more specifically on behalf of senior athletes who had their last college season, and likely the last competitive sport season of their life, abruptly ended. There are many emotions tied to this historical occurrence, but one of the greatest frustrations is just feeling like we have been robbed. Most of our athletes here have been playing sports for as long as they can remember, continuously working to improve their game throughout the course of their life. The senior year is anticipated as a culmination of years of practice, training and learning from past experiences, ideally making the final season the most rewarding one yet. The concept that a college athlete ends an athletic career at the peak of performance, at the close of their senior season, is already strange enough, let alone not even getting to showcase and experience the product of everything leading up to that point. The disappointment is even greater, considering our baseball team was off to a 12-3 start to the season with high expectations for success given the very promising talent on our team.
Another takeaway from this unique situation for the class of 2020 seniors is having to deal with the lack of closure. On March 12, our baseball team was just one hour into our 4-day road series before we got word to turn the bus around and head back to school. At the time, we were hopeful to play the games later, that is until we started seeing notifications on Twitter regarding further cancellations by the NCAA of all spring sport championships. We started to realize that our season was hanging by a thread. We got back to campus and as everyone hurried to retrieve their stuff and head out, no one knew that we just had our last bus trip together.
Over the next few days, many of us went home, but with the thought that we would be back after the extended spring break. But the punches to the gut had been coming one after another, each one harder than the one before. First, the interrupted weekend road series, then the cancelled spring NCAA championships, then a suspension of games and practice until further review on April 6, and ultimately we received the news that our entire remaining season was cancelled, as well as the face-to-face format of classes on campus. Understandably, UIndy was taking the same precautions as institutions nationwide, and everyone was encouraged to stay home, but we seniors were realizing that our traditional college experience was actually over a few days ago, without us even knowing it. Being home in Kansas, I was struggling with the realization that goodbyes didn’t happen and we were now all scattered. And unlike all other class years, we seniors wouldn’t have the fall reunions and return-to-college normalcy to look forward to.
Since then, the NCAA has declared that all spring sport athletes would receive an extra year of eligibility. However, many of us have already made plans for next year. Many of the athletes granted the extra year of eligibility are realizing that it is more practical in the long run to move on with our lives and start on our journey of making a living, as opposed to paying for another year of school.
It’s odd to think that I’ve already played my last college game and attended my last class at UIndy. All of the cherished “lasts” that we seniors looked forward to relishing, occurred without the opportunity to absorb and experience them as “lasts” in the moment. As if senior year isn’t already the seemingly shortest, the class of 2020 will be known for the shortest of them all. How ironic that 2020 commonly refers to the idea of clear vision, yet neither this class of 2020, nor the world, ever saw this life-changing experience coming.