The Class of 2020 Experience

Sasha Rushing

While all of us have been profoundly affected by the move to lockdown and online school, the Class of 2020, myself included, is unfortunate enough to be graduating this year. They’re missing, or rescheduling, traditional high school, and Uni, rituals, such as senior prom, senior trip, graduation, and handprints. I set out to interview various members of the class, to see how different seniors were dealing with the conditions that have been imposed on them. Each gave a different perspective on lockdown, online school, senior events, and how they had been affected by other recent news.

While many indicated that they felt like they had become substantially less productive with the move to online school, others expressed neutral, or positive opinions on the change, at least as far as their ability to do work is concerned. Senior Emi Brown, for instance, said that she had become more productive because she was less distracted, and could take breaks on her schedule. Leo Maslov said that “at first, yes [it had become harder to do work in online school], however, the longer I do it, the easier it becomes.” Senior Henry Kraatz, meanwhile, offered the opposite perspective, saying that it had become harder to keep up as online school continued. Elizabeth Rienstra backed him up, saying that “I’ve been having a hard time staying motivated to “show up” to class since we started this, and it’s only gotten worse the longer we go […] it’s manageable for now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes less manageable.” Opinions about grading during online school also differed, with senior Zona Hrnjak saying that “I’m still doing decently well in my UofI classes because there’s work to do and stuff to turn in,” though she also said that “I think it’s less the grade and more like having a teacher check in with you,” when asked if she thought A-F grades would help, or hinder online classes, while most others indicated that the added stress of A-F grades would definitively not be worth any improvements in motivation, and might have no positive effects at all.

Overall, seniors indicated that the thing they would miss the most from a normal senior year were their friends. Still, students like Elizabeth Rienstra indicated that they would miss senior year events greatly, and that “it feels wrong to end five years together without any celebration (in person),” talking about prom and graduation. Emi Brown, meanwhile, expressed concerns about attending events rescheduled over the summer, out of concern for elderly and vulnerable relatives. Elizabeth Rienstra also shared data from a survey of seniors concerning preferences for graduation—22 expressed a preference for a rescheduled graduation, 22 for a rescheduled graduation and an online ceremony, and 2 for only a virtual celebration.

On a difficult note for all of us here at Uni, these interviews were conducted after the revelations concerning Doug Mynatt. As such, questions were asked to see if the news had substantially changed outlooks on lockdown. Multiple seniors reported feeling a much stronger desire to leave Uni after the news, and that it had reduced their interest in any kind of special events, expressing sentiments such as “ok 2020, you win.” Multiple seniors also stated that the news had seriously reduced their motivation, either for plans to become fit and train during the lockdown, or across the board, in all of their classes.