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Students express disappointment toward a virtual spring semester

Commencement was going to be a moment that Traci Salazar, fourth-year political science major, shared with her daughter. Now, it’s unlikely that her 7-year-old will see her walk across the stage and receive her degree. 

Students have expressed their disappointment with the recent announcement that Long Beach State will be continuing with mainly remote instruction for the spring 2021 semester.  

“It’s just sad because I wanted her to see me. I wanted her to see her mom graduate,” Salazar said. “It means something to everyone, it honestly does, but for me personally it just really meant something to my daughter.” 

The single mom, a transfer student from California State University, Dominguez Hills, was only on CSULB’s campus for a few weeks before the coronavirus pandemic caused the school to transition to distanced learning.

Salazar never got the chance to be fully acquainted with her new campus. She wasn’t able to participate in clubs, go to the library or enjoy a Starbucks coffee before class. 

“I didn’t get the chance to enjoy the whole campus experience,” Salazar said. “It sucks because I work so hard to come here and I didn’t even get four weeks in.” 

Gerardo Casillas, fourth-year studio art major, said he understood why instruction will be held online for the spring semester but remained optimistic that the university would open in some capacity. 

“My hopes were kinda crushed after seeing the [announcement],” Casillas said. “I’m an adult. I totally understand where they are coming from. I understand it, but it’s not something I like.”  

After spending three years at Long Beach City College, Casillas was excited to finish out his college education at CSULB as a transfer student. 

He said he felt that his last two years would be his best. 

Then the pandemic hit. 

“I told myself that if fall semester is going to be virtual, [that’s] fine, I can live with that, but please God please let me have spring semester,” Casillas said. “Just so I can say one last goodbye, just so I could have one last hurrah. I feel that fall 2019 was my first and last normal semester as far as face-to-face classes.” 

Students have taken to social media, echoing Casillas’ feelings toward the virtual spring semester. Several have expressed feelings of uncertainty about how this decision will affect commencement and the cost of tuition. 

Initially, commencement for the class of 2020 had been postponed in May over concerns of spreading the coronavirus among the community as they were set to walk alongside the class of 2021. 

Since the chancellor’s announcement, though, things remain up in the air. President Jane Close Conoley said an official decision will be made Dec. 1 regarding commencement.

Ivet Ramirez, fourth-year communication studies major, said she feels tuition should be lowered since courses will be conducted online.  

“I think it’s absolutely ridiculous. We are paying for things we aren’t even using,” Ramirez said. “Everything is online and honestly it’s just kind of a waste of money.” 

As Ramirez is slated to graduate this coming May, she had plans for her family to travel from Northern California to Long Beach to celebrate her accomplishment. Since spring will be held online, though, Ramirez and her family will be staying up north. 

Like many students, Ramirez was hoping that the university would be open for the spring semester after having a remote fall. With this being her last year, she had several plans that are now in limbo.  

“I was really hoping to move back to Long Beach, which was like my main goal. But I can’t do that now, or who knows if I’ll be able to do it,” Ramirez said. 

Like Salazar and Casillas, Ramirez is also a transfer student and, after coming from Santa Rosa Junior College, she was looking forward to a new experience at the Beach.

With the pandemic putting a damper on her plans, however, Ramirez didn’t get to truly discover what the campus has to offer. 

“Being a transfer student, it was already kind of hard to get that college experience and now everything being online makes it entirely worse,” she said. “It’s like I never really got the college experience.” 

Graduating students are not the only students who are disappointed about this recent announcement. 

Shanelle Als, third-year kinesiology major, said she isn’t too pleased with staying online for the rest of the academic year. 

A recent LBCC transfer student, Als said she was looking forward to meeting some of her peers and professors in person. 

“I understand that they deem it is just unsafe to return, and I do agree with that decision, but on the same token it is almost discouraging knowing that I’m not getting the in-person quality of education that CSULB offers,” Als said. 

With school being her ultimate priority, she is still determined to complete her third year virtually. 

Plans for the future hang in limbo as students try to come to terms with the fact that they will have yet another virtual semester. While some may have to say goodbye to a campus they hardly knew through Zoom, others still have the chance to see if the next academic year will be any different from its predecessors. 

As plans for commencement remain up in the air, Salazar has considered taking time off from college in hopes of experiencing graduation with her daughter, but knows she should finish school sooner than later. 

“I can’t afford to take any longer than I already have,” Salazar said. “I have to better myself so my daughter and I won’t have to struggle anymore. I want to be able to survive and provide for her properly.”

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