LFH: Day 3

by Sunita

Well, yesterday was a day. The big news came at the end: the university cancelled all commencement events. Commencement is in mid-May and it’s not just the ceremony on the day, it also features division- and school-specific degree and diploma ceremonies, awards events, class reunions, and a raft of other events, especially for seniors. When I was in college and grad school we didn’t treat the ceremony itself as such a big deal, although most people attended their BA graduations. But in recent years (decades?) the passage from one grade group to another has become more and more celebrated and signified. I don’t blame students for feeling like yet another major milestone has been ripped away from them through no fault of their own.

I’m worried about how this will affect my students’ attitudes to finishing classes, especially seniors. I have a lot of seniors in both classes, and I haven’t heard from them yet (I’ve sent emails but they’ve been uncharacteristically quiet). I spent yesterday collaborating with colleagues and grad students on the survey I mentioned, and we’re sending it out today. TheH and some other colleagues and staff have been testing out our various technological options. We have two video-recording and/or conferencing options, and it turns out the one no one talks much about is the one that works. We have been told to avoid synchronous class assignments and meetings, which makes sense given the way our students are dispersed and our lack of knowledge about their current situations.

On the other hand, we need to be there for them. So it makes sense to have some synchronous events where we can discuss issues in real time. Maybe have more than one session per class, so that students who miss one can join another. But we’ll make them text-based rather than audio- or video-dependent. We’re returning to the good old days of bulletin boards! Denizens of the old AAR boards, I think you’d recognize some of these options. 😉

What else … I spent a huge amount of time on email. I’m also reading so much on screens, I treasure my print ToDo lists. Emailing sometimes feels like typing into the void, especially when you send an email to 50 people and get five responses over the course of the day.

Oh yeah, the university also kicked everyone except absolutely essential personnel off the A&S/professional schools campus until April 6. Like commencement, it is not a surprise, and it’s especially good for staff, who were expected to come to work, but a side effect is more social isolation for everyone. The SF Bay Area is under a “shelter in place” order, which in my day we called a curfew, until April 7 or so. I need to check in with my friends and family there. My cousin’s son and his wife who live here in STL just had a baby (my only nearby family). I hope I’ll see them at some point before the kid is walking. STL has closed most public places. Restaurants are allowed food delivery and pickup only. We’re just eating at home, so I don’t know if my neighborhood family-run Thai place has completely closed. I should check. And the chicken-wings takeout joint. I hope they’re managing.

This is a bit rambling; apologies! I’m taking a short break between emails and video-conference and other work tasks to write this and catch my breath.

We continued our depletion of the freezer and pantry yesterday. Lunch was leftover homemade mulligatawny soup with Kawan parathas (the latter are highly recommended, we always have several packages in the freezer). Dinner was braised cabbage and sausage courtesy of my brother-in-law’s annual Christmas present, which always includes reindeer sausage along with the requisite Alaskan fish. Both meals were good. It’s interesting that at dinnertime approaches, no matter how tired I am I know I’m making dinner. No asking TheH to go get takeout, not for another ten days, anyway.

All the models suggest that we’re still quite a way from the peak of the infection. This Washington Post simulation of the impact of social distance is excellent, as is this NYT story on how the US and UK governments were forced to revise their strategies when bludgeoned with science. We’re going to need a bigger boat, aren’t we.

In a more cheerful vein, I finally started reading Elly Griffiths’ first Ruth Galloway mystery, The Crossing Places. Liz McC recommended it as an accompaniment to our Norfolk walk, and talk about spot on! Not only is it set in Norfolk, it takes place around a bird sanctuary and salt marsh that we walked through. It was just what I needed to sink in to at the end of a long, difficult day, and I can’t wait to get back to it. Thanks, Liz, and thanks to you as well, readers, for being here.