Since the transition to online learning in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many Wayne State University commuter students have not stepped foot on campus.
During the fall 2019 semester, 21,953 students were commuting to campus, according to the Office of Institutional Research and Analysis. That semester, the Parking and Transportation Services Department sold about 6,234 commuter/resident parking passes, Director Jon Frederick said.
This semester, approximately 5,941 students commuted to campus and 1,161 people purchased commuter/resident passes. However, these numbers do not include people who may have canceled their parking passes, Frederick said.
Loveeza Khan, a sophomore majoring in kinesiology, has not been on campus since March, she said. When she finally does return, she expects it to be very different.
“I haven't been back because I didn’t feel comfortable at first and then when I was ready for the fall semester my family wasn’t comfortable with me going back on campus yet,” she said.
As of Dec. 5, there are 240 students and 43 employees with confirmed COVID-19 cases on WSU’s campus, according to the campus COVID-19 dashboard.
COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise throughout the state. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported 404,386 total confirmed COVID-19 cases and 9,947 deaths as of Dec. 7.
Many students, familiar with traditional classes, are struggling with online courses.
Hoda Fotovat-Ahmadi, a first-year pharmacy student at WSU, has had a “hectic” semester with everything online, she said.
“It’s just been so hard to adjust to everything because everything is so new to us and we’re not actually on campus, face-to-face, to figure things out,” Fotovat-Ahmadi said. “Everyone is trying to figure things out on their own but also time moves fast when you’re busy,” Fotovat-Ahmadi said.
English and psychology major Mohamad Soueidan said classes taught through Zoom make him feel detached.
“I feel less connected to my classroom experience compared to when I was taking classes in person,” Soueidan said. “In-person classes are so much better because it allows you to build personal connections with the teachers and the students.”
Students have been communicating via group chats to stay connected, Fotovat-Ahmadi said.
“Thankfully I made a group of friends through a group assignment that we had to do on Zoom and so we have a group chat and met up in person a few times,” Fotovat-Ahmadi said.
Next semester, Fotovat-Ahmadi is supposed to take an in-person patient care lab —which she described as patient counseling. She hopes to have more hands-on experiences in the future, but expects the class will be taught online next semester, she said. The only in-person activities this semester involved education on immunization, CPR certifications and a few volunteer opportunities.
“I truly think for the next couple of years we’re going to be fully online,” Fotovat-Ahmadi said.
When in-person classes resume, Soueidan expects people to continue wearing face masks and practicing social distancing, as well as a reduced number of students in classes, he said.
A return to campus might be uncomfortable for many at first, Khan said.
“I don’t think there will be many students up for it right away, and even when they are, I feel like there won't be any hanging out on campus,” Khan said. “While in classrooms, I feel some students won't feel comfortable sitting so close to each other for a while.”
Fotovat-Ahmadi said she has gotten used to the heavy virtual work-load and the semester feels like it is moving much quicker than usual.
“A whole semester is almost done… and then January is a new semester and we still have never had any in-person things,” Fotovat-Ahmadi said.
Erin Griffin is a contributing writer for The South End. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cover photo by Quinn Banks, multimedia editor for The South End. He can be reached at email@example.com.