As Shippensburg University comes out of the pandemic, we continue to make progress in recreating the normal we once knew.
SU recently announced it would expand in-person on-campus experiences including homecoming, face-to-face club meetings and athletic events. A post on Shipnews.org said, “students can expect the elimination of social distancing in the classroom.”
Until then, warmer weather and vaccinations create safer environments for clubs and student organizations to hold meetings, for friends to play a game of volleyball or to have lunch with a friend on a set of Adirondack chairs in the Academic Quad.
These are earned achievements our community has reached — achievements that seemed so far out of reach 365 days ago. As the semester winds down, SU continues to offer testing and opportunities for on-campus vaccinations.
Life is crawling toward “normal,” but restrictions still remain in place for our campus. We still find ourselves dealing with limited capacity, space restrictions and the inability to truly have the campus experience we once took for granted.
SU is hosting the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Track and Field Championships this weekend. The university is also home to Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, Inc., District 3 and State Track and Field Championships, to be held later this month.
PSAC and SU officials recently announced spectator policy updates, preparing for the upcoming championships.
“In an effort to permit at least minimal fans, each participant of the 2021 PSAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships will be able to designate no more than two visitors for each day they participate,” a press release said.
School officials must submit their team’s spectator pass list for each day of the championships to SU officials prior to the start of the championships, and those not on the list will be turned away, according to the release.
Due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, only the Top 16 performers in each event will be invited to the PSAC Championships. There are 18 schools in the PSAC. While some athletes compete in multiple events and may overlap in the Top 16 spots, this is still a lot of people from Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and everywhere in between flocking to our campus. Teams include qualifying athletes, coaches, athletic trainers, support staff and two spectators per student. The number of people in attendance can balloon quite quickly.
The PIAA meets are even larger events, with more people from a variety of places attending. The PIAA competition bubble may not be as tight as it is for collegiate competitors.
But we as a society have made progress in managing and combating this pandemic. Most of these athletes have lost a year of competition eligibility (the NCAA granted an additional year), and deserve the opportunity to safely compete.
These types of events also help boost our town’s economy. The town and local businesses rely on customers drawn in by the university hosting these events. They too have lost that opportunity in the past year. The university is helping itself, the local restaurants, businesses and hotels when hosting events that draw out-of-town visitors.
But the university should also make every effort to help its graduates and their families.
Our graduation ceremonies were split to accommodate students and families because one commencement ceremony would be “too big” or cause discomfort among guests. The problem most graduates faced was not feeling uncomfortable sitting on the football field socially distanced, but the presented decision of choosing only two family members to watch them celebrate four years (or more) of hard work.
Graduates are grateful the university gave them the option of an in-person or drive-in ceremony — the class of 2020 was not so fortunate.
But it hurts when we hear faculty members and campus maintenance and facilities officials say, “We could have done more.”
Instead, graduates will now pile into the family SUV or minivan so Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa and other loved ones can see them walk across the stage. It takes more than two people to help someone get — financially, emotionally or physically — through college.
The class of 2021, both college and high school, has lost a lot of our senior years. We knew homecoming was not really going to happen and there would be no traditional spring break. But we held onto the hope for graduation.
But now we watch as our peers at other universities participate in more traditional ceremonies while we wait in our cars to include our support systems in one of the biggest days of our lives.
The community and university have made enough progress to host large events with external visitors. But it needs to also honor the sacrifice and progress of its graduates and their families.