The ultimate ‘Uno-Reverse’?, part 3

Dec. 27, 2021, 9:27 p.m.

And here we are, back to where we were a year ago, back at a crossroads, a wild card. Cases are rising, this time with variants infecting thousands across the country and students awaiting news from their universities, the ominous message from Dec. 16 being one of the many to come. In part 1, we covered last year’s fiasco of reversals. In part 2, we found what did go right in terms of students returning to campus. And now, combining student perspectives with our own, we want to ask the following — what does the past have to say about our future? And what do students have to say about what’s to come?

Winter ’22: Third time’s the charm?

When Kyla read the email, the situation was too familiar. She already dreads emails from administration after last year’s fiasco; seeing the latest email’s title caught her off-guard, as she expected winter to be normal, and this made her relive the memories of the past. All she could think was “Oh boy, here we go again.” (She immediately proceeded to post the announcement to an Instagram story, Oliva Rodrigo’s “deja vu” playing in the background of the photo.) After reflection, though, she somehow remains hopeful. Two weeks could just be a delay tactic for an actual announcement of Zoom University, just as it was a year ago, but Kyla believes otherwise. Students should not expect the worst but they should prepare for any change or challenge during these unprecedented times. 

As Vivian and her friends were waiting in line at Disneyland on Dec. 16, 2021, Vivian’s friend saw an Outlook notification saying “Update on the beginning of winter quarter.” From just reading the subject line, Vivian knew it was not good news; she thought Stanford was going to announce that students would not be on campus for the entire quarter due to the increasing severity of Omicron. Understanding the necessity for this two-week remote learning decision, Vivian is trying to be optimistic and make the most of the situation. However, Vivian fears the Class of 2025 will experience the similar fate of the Class of 2024; she worries that the uncertainty of Omicron will cause the forestallment of in-person activities. 

As for many, fall was the first time in a while where many could gather somewhat normally amidst abnormal times. It was fun. It was rewarding. We could finally see what the “real” Stanford is, and we want to keep experiencing it. Linda Tong ’24, who took a gap-year prior to COVID and was away another year due to remote learning and hopes for continued in-person instruction, “loved the sense of community [she] felt from living on campus this fall.”

Students from across the undergraduate population have mixed feelings about what is to come. Many, understandably, are looking at it with a “glass half-empty” perspective — Thursday’s announcement appears as Stanford’s tactic to deter the masses from taking a leave of absence and the two-week restriction will eventually be elongated. After all, most dislike online classes due to the lack of connection, something that can make our education fun  

Sami Raihane ’22, a student interviewed by The Daily, recognizes student concerns and frustrations with online school, especially regarding equity and its social implications. “Online courses lead to greater inequalities and access to resources, such as broadband Internet, affordable flights and mental health/health services, [which] pose the largest burden on FLI and international students.” 

On a Buzz post by Daily reporters, general consensus on the app was the opposite of optimistic. Again, students believe that this is a repeat of last year’s winter quarter delay and eventual elimination. One student even replied to our post soliciting student reactions, a statement with one word: “bad.”

However, many students, while cautious, remain positive that temporal restrictions are indeed temporary and they’ll be able to rejoin their peers without further barriers. Frosh Kaylee Shen ’25, acknowledging the constant shifts in the pandemic, has “positive affirmations.”

“With the vaccines and booster shots, I do have hope that things will actually end after the two weeks or not long after that,” Shen said. “I think I’m going to choose to believe that things are going to be different this time.”

For Justin Weller ’24, he at first reacted to email in the way many students did, concluding that “we’re going to have another quarter online.” However, as he read on, he had a lot more hope, even with last year’s switch. 

“The change is primarily designed to help students who get a positive test and have to quarantine so that they don’t miss out on class,” he said in an interview with The Daily. “It’s very likely given the break and Omicron that there will be students who get COVID.”

Some praise Stanford’s decision to have the two-week remote period. For students who needed to return to campus by plane, the general consensus was that Stanford’s original plan for students to fly in on New Year’s was ridiculous, given the price and lack of time to prepare for classes on Jan. 3. A student who wished to be quoted anonymously was glad the two week period was put in place — they were able to move their flight from Jan. 2 to 8, lessening financial strain, and spending more time with family. 

Daily reporters also interviewed Mike Carragee ’23, who shared that both of his parents are doctors. “Something a lot of people (including myself until recently) don’t get about COVID is the fact that deaths aren’t the only relevant statistic,” Carragee said in an interview. “Even if it isn’t as deadly, Omicron is far more transmissible than Delta and will cause more hospitalizations.”

Carragee wants his fellow students to remember that although “online school is hard, January’s emergency patients deserve good care more than we deserve in-person class.”

Raihane also commends the University’s announcement, as he wants the Stanford community to remember that the “Stanford student body represents roughly 50 states and 70+ countries.” With students returning after winter break travels and festivities, the odds of transmission are higher than usual. Raihane also cites Cornell University’s recent spike in COVID-19 cases and says “we do not want to follow in the steps of other universities.”

Upperclassmen have advice for either path we end up taking. Ximena Sánchez Martínez ’23 suggests that students should resist overbooking themselves. “There will be more flexibility to schedule meetings and events during the first two weeks since we won’t have to worry about going to in-person lectures. [Refrain from filling up time you won’t have later.]”

Raihane also wants to remind students to tap into Stanford’s resources, specifically things such as sending emails for help or connecting to professors, using community centers, digging into monetary support (such as the FLI opportunity fund) and online tutoring from the Hume Center for essay or application editing and speech preparation. 

“​​To underclassmen, I understand how this can be a frustrating time in terms of social life, classes, internships, research opportunities, as well as garnering what you hoped to be the Stanford experience,” Raihane said. “My biggest suggestion to you is to remember that Stanford faculty and peers are here to help you. You will be shocked at the vast array of resources Stanford has and the number of people willing to help you achieve your dreams and goals.”

With that, a mix of hopeless optimism, hysteria and fatigue spreads rapidly throughout the Stanford community, and students continue to stay alert and reflect on our University’s current situation. With 2022 quickly approaching, we’re entering the second year of this seemingly never-ending pandemic. We’ve been through a lot these past two years — closure, time that we should have had and yearn to have back, yet, due to fate, was never ours. And it seems to escape us at every chance, even when it feels like the coast is clear and we can make up for what we can. Then, the road takes a turn and we’re back to the same uncertainty. Normalcy continues to act like sand within the grasp of a hand — you may think you have a hold, but it always manages to slip between the cracks and eventually returns to the ground it came from. 

While we grieve for some time, it’s important to find a balance between being optimistic and remaining cognizant of the rapidly-evolving situation. While 95% of the Stanford community is vaccinated, anything can happen. Above all, we need to be kind to one another as a supportive, empathetic community.

“We can and will get through this pandemic,” Raihane added, “but it’s going to take us all working together, as well as a whole lot of kindness, to keep pushing forward.”

Whether the ultimate “uno-reverse” happens, we’re grateful for fall quarter, for the seeds that were sown and any roots we were able to put down in the Stanford culture and community. Hopefully, like trees in a forest, we can thrive together one day without a constant threat of disaster. All we can ask for is the best — or at least a timely email. 

Kyla Figueroa ‘24 is the former Vol. 260–262 Managing Editor for The Grind, the 263 Screen DE for Arts & Life, and a staff writer for News. Throw pitches and questions her way — kfigueroa ‘at’ Wang ’25 is a staff writer at The Daily. She is from Orange County, California and is currently studying Symbolic Systems. Contact her at imvivian ‘at’ to talk about tech, journalism, Disneyland or anything else.

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