Chasing Chapman Normalcy

Chapman students (from left) Jane O’Connor, Alexandra Coenjaerts and Avery Davidson recognize that things are still not back to the old normal on campus. Photo by Ella Kodjababian.

School during the pandemic for some meant listening to class through airpods, in a car full of friends, or en route to the beach. Others might have stared at 12 black zoom squares while putting on makeup, preparing for a socially distanced night out. 

It’s what junior communication major Riley Brownfield called, “half school.”

Junior Riley Brownfield. Photo courtesy of Brownfield.

“Chapman didn’t feel alive and I was living a dull college experience,” she said. 

Although Zoom has now taken a backseat, campus life is far from back to normal. The pandemic looms as students find their interactions tainted by masks and hand sanitizer — and campus cops at the doorways — while transitioning back in person. You still need a phone app to get into classroom buildings. 

Normalcy can’t be forced amidst a pandemic.

Although most are grateful to be back, it still isn’t the idyllic life students once had before. 

Marley Seabern, junior communications major, couldn’t breathe during her class. 

“When I got into the bathroom I took my mask off and was literally gasping for breath, like I actually felt like it was suffocating me,” she said. 

Danielle Berch, junior strategic and corporate communication major, said, “As happy as I am to see my friends in person, I really only see half of their face.” 

Junior Danielle Berch. Photo courtesy of Berch.

Jane O’Connor, junior communication major, finds it tough to adjust back.

“You have to give your best effort in class, but also deal with the stress of the pandemic and getting sick on top of that,” she said. 

How’s this for chasing normalcy: the first week of school, more than 250 students tested positive for COVID-19, which only further discouraged morale. Nearly 80 of those students had to quarantine off campus at various hotels. 

Freshman Erin Wilbanks tested positive for COVID-19 her fourth day of school. She was sent to Ayres Hotel in Anaheim the same day. Not only did Wilbanks miss out on important soccer games, but also two weeks of education. 

After emailing one professor to tell her she had tested positive, she received a discouraging response. 

“She ended up emailing me like a few days later, and was like, ‘I need to know if you’re serious about this class cause you’re not showing up, and so I’ll kick you out of the class,’” Wilbanks said. 

Two weeks after Wilbanks returned to campus, she was still behind in all of her classes. 

But things will get better. Dean of Students Jerry Price is sure of that:

“Between now and January, we are going to learn a lot more about the cycle of the virus and be able to make better determinations in terms of what things do matter and what things don’t. As we learn that, there will be more motivation to stop doing things that no longer seem effective.” 

Jane O’Connor, Drake Mueller, Avery Davidson and Alexandra Coenjaerts hanging out on campus before class. Photo by Ella Kodjababian.

The lingering mental health issues may be more complicated to overcome. 

Rebecca Tuckachinsky, a communication professor, said, “Some students didn’t have a simple year of watching Netflix.” 

Junior data analytics major Slade Laszewski sure didn’t. Living near campus in California meant being across the country from his family in New Hampshire. Visiting home would have put his high-risk father’s life in jeopardy.  

“I constantly had to choose between having a full college experience and being there for my family,” he said.  

Berch was excited to return to normal. However, she said, “It has been a difficult adjustment trying to go back to balancing many activities when I spent so much time during covid inside doing none of these things.”

Brownfield agrees. “I am worried about getting burned out because my stamina and endurance for going to school and swim practice is gone after all this time off,” she said. 

These concerns are valid, but there is hope students will be able to bask in the privilege of full school once more. Eventually.

 “Things will be normal, except getting a Covid shot every year will just seem like getting a flu shot,” Price said.

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Ella Kodjababian is a junior communication major and Spanish minor. At Chapman, she runs for the track and field team, is a member of greek life and on the Calliope Art and Literary Magazine Art Board.

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Ava McLean is an avid traveler, milk drinker, and artist. Her life's biggest regret is bleaching and dying her hair with information she received off of Youtube. Her hair is still recovering from that experience.