by Kelly Cwik & Megan LaCreta, Asst. A&E Editor, Contributor
After experiencing a semester remotely, some students and professors returned to Manhattan College for their first in-person classes since March of 2020.
One of these students is Aubrey Lefkowitz, a senior philosophy major from Rockland County, New York, who returned to campus to complete her final semester before graduating.
“I just felt like I could handle it now and so I decided to come back and I feel really great about it,” Lefkowitz said.
Lefkowitz chose to stay home and take remote classes for the fall semester out of caution of the pandemic.
“I had a hard time feeling safe really anywhere,” Lefkowitz said. “And so I just felt like it was the right call for me and my mental health to be with my family and be able to stay close to my parents if I needed anything.”
However, Lefkowitz was not new to remote learning. She said that her experience with homeschooling in high school put her at an advantage when adjusting to online classes, compared to other students who may have been experiencing remote instruction for the first time.
One student who wasn’t as comfortable with remote learning was Molly McLoughlin, a sophomore civil engineering major from Connecticut. McLoughlin found the lack of separation between school life and personal life difficult to manage.
“I felt that school never ended, because my school is literally five feet away from my bed, so it was like it was always there, kind of like constantly nagging me to do something,” McLoughlin said. “But I think being at school, there’s that kind of separation where I could go to the library to work and have my dorm room to be more of a relaxing zone.”
Similar to Lefkowitz, McLoughlin decided to stay remote to be with her family, and to see how MC handled its first semester in-person during the pandemic. McLoughlin made the choice to return to campus after seeing how the school kept the virus under control.
“I just felt more comfortable and I wanted to get some normalcy back in my life, to actually go into college and be able to see friends and everything,” McLoughlin said.
Another person who was happy to return to campus was Rocco Marinaccio, Ph.D. an English professor at the college. Marinaccio switched from teaching remotely to in-person in early November, and returned to in-person teaching for the spring semester. Marinaccio gave insight into the thoughts of faculty, who were faced with the same difficult choices as many students.
“What influenced me to come back is, I mean, the same thing that probably every single faculty member feels, whether we are on campus or not,” Marinaccio said. “Every single one of us would much rather be on campus. There’s no doubt about that. So I wanted to be on campus. And I finally decided it was a safe enough activity to be on campus, you know, given the overall rate in the city.”
Marinaccio voiced concerns about how the administration had originally handled faculty’s unease about coming back to campus.
“In the beginning, I think that the administration was playing hardball with the faculty, and probably pushing a little harder then seemed legitimate to get faculty back in the classroom,” Marinaccio said. “I think ultimately we worked everything out, but I believe it was probably a bit more of a battle than it should’ve been.”
Ultimately, however, Marinaccio was comfortable enough with the school’s numbers to return to teaching in-person. He also commented on the struggles of remote learning for professors and students alike, combining the unique difficulties of everyone’s home lives, and the awkward rhythm of remote conversation.
Despite it all, Marinaccio said that he was proud of his students for being engaged in class. He lauded MC students for the way they have acted during the pandemic.
“You [students] have all behaved heroically, and I don’t think you’re getting enough credit,” Marinaccio said. “Because, for all the rules that the administration and the governor could have laid down, if you all decided not to be responsible, none of them would have worked. It’s all finally on the students for making it happen.”