Zooming Through the End of the World

Photo: Yahoo

Back in March, when the University of Baltimore decided to transition from in-person to remote learning, I was optimistic. As someone who’s spent most of their teens and early-twenties glued to a computer screen, I didn’t think Zoom would be so bad. I thought it might even be a bit freeing, not having to get ready for school and drive to campus every day. UB’s decision came over spring break, and I think many of my MFA cohort members saw it a bit like an extended reprieve from campus. Most of us are introverts anyway. How bad could it be, really?

Fast forward seven months—I’ve been doing remote learning for three semesters now. I’ve been mostly out of work since March, but oddly enough I still feel like a bartender, thanks to Zoom. Every day I spend on it feels like I’m being held captive by some drunk at the bar who won’t stop talking. It forces me to nod and smile and make nice and hope that, at some point, I can slip away to the bathroom unnoticed. Zoom fatigue has settled in, and it’s not going away any time soon.

Some professors have been quite gracious about remote learning. They understand that these are unprecedented times. And yes, I did just say “unprecedented,” because like Zoom that damn phrase is also inescapable. They build breaks into class sessions, they don’t scold you for turning your camera off in case you don’t want to force others to watch you eat or be forced to have others watch you eat, they get it when you need to get up and attend to an animal or a child or a roommate, and I lump them all together because unless they get Zoom, they will interrupt you whenever they need something. 

Other professors, like one I had at the beginning of the state lockdown, are trying quite hard to pretend that we aren’t in the midst of a pandemic, that democracy isn’t collapsing around us, and that the world isn’t literally on fire (okay, WORLD may be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get it). They want your face in class and your full attention, regardless of what’s going on in or outside the walls of your dwelling. And that intensifies my apprehension of Zoom. It invites a distinct, new stressor into the one place that’s supposed to be safe from that—home. 

Allyson Waldon, a student in the MFA program, also wonders about other ramifications of Zoom learning. “We have already considered what too much screen time does to kinds’ brains, but what about adults?” Seriously though, what about us? Is it any surprise that no one wants to be on a Zoom session from 5:30-8:00pm, two, three, or more nights a week? Many students have turned to drinking during class to just get through the sessions (myself included). We just don’t have the emotional bandwidth.

“I’m tired of classes not being adapted to this eternal digital hellscape and also being forced to remain mostly on camera for two consecutive hours,” says Sierra Farrare, another MFA student. I hear her. I’m so tired of so much. And I’m tired of people who aren’t in college asking me “How’s school going?” What should I say? “It’s going great! I love staring into a screen for hours on end, several days a week, watching my cohort members watch me back while we all attempt astral projection to escape this hell that is our reality.” Look, if this all sounds a bit abrasive, I’m not sorry. I’m freaking exhausted. I’m Zoom fatigued, and so are my classmates.

Tatiana Huang is a staff writer for The Sting

UB Admin. Silent on Tuition Refund, says FOIA request

  Photo credit: Fourth View Media

A public information request to University of Baltimore officials ranging from President Kurt Schmoke, Provost Smith, and Chief Financial Officer Beth Amyot yielded no results. 

University of Baltimore is one of nearly a dozen universities to receive a public information request from Fourth View Media, a multimedia company. 

These requests have been a part of “Return My Semester”, a series of Fourth View Media, that maintains a public database showcasing actions taken by universities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These actions can range from refunding student fees and parking to providing tuition credits at a prorated rate. 

Return My Semester’s database is growing with only University of Baltimore and University of Maryland at College Park being the only schools with data in Maryland.   

Fourth View, in their press release, recognized the University of Baltimore as the first university among those who received FOIA requests to respond. 

“That request sought communications, including emails, of President Kurt Schmoke, Executive Vice President and Provost Darlene Brannigan Smith, and Director of Finance Karen Karmiol that contained the phrase “tuition reimbursement” or “tuition refund” during months of February and March of this year,” said the press release from Fourth View. “The Office of Government and Public Affairs informed Fourth View that “the University has no responsive information.”

“We will continue to shed light on the discussion around how the coronavirus has impacted education and the campus experience by acting as a central resource for not only students,” said Dylan Thomas, content strategist for Fourth View to the UB Post. “But also for the general public. ”

University of Baltimore students have organized a Change.org petition on a tuition refund which could be accessed here.

Friday Groove: #CancelEverything

Coronavirus has upended SXSW, Coachella, and a slew of other live music events. Source: Rolling Stone

Last week, I wrote about the upcoming D.C. Jam, a one-day music festival planned for July 4. While no announcement has been made yet concerning the cancellation of the festival, this event may be in jeopardy of being postponed or cancelled, like so many other events that are swiftly being modified to meet the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has affected various communities worldwide. While more cancellations are likely to come, COVID-19 has already drastically impacted a number of annual festivals, tours and concerts. 

On March 6, the city of Austin, TX announced that South by Southwest, the celebrated tech and music festival would be cancelled, and potentially rescheduled sometime later this year. Austin Public Health said, “there’s no evidence that closing SXSW or any other gatherings will make the community safer.” Despite their statement, many are taking such precautions out of an abundance of caution. 

On Tuesday, Coachella also announced plans to postpone the annual music festival six months, until October 2020. Coachella organizers apologized for the inconvenience but asked people to “follow the guidelines and protocols put forth by public health officials.”

Dr. Daniel Griffin, an infectious disease physician specialist at Columbia University, says that music fans everywhere should expect cancellations and postponements. “The concern we’re seeing now is that, as we have an increased capacity to do testing, we’re seeing that this virus is already widespread in the country. You go to a concert, there’s that many people and that level of transmission that occurs at a concert. Unfortunately, those will be big spreading events.”

Concert promoters like Live Nation have taken measures themselves to be proactive about fighting the virus. Yesterday, Live Nation announced that they would halt all large-scale tours, in addition to requesting that artists return home. This comes as many local and state governments begin to institute bans on large gatherings (generally 500+ people).

Local venues like the 9:30 Club and The Anthem in Washington, D.C. are seeing a dramatic impact from the virus as they halted all performances through the end of the month. “The health of our employees, patrons, community and artists is paramount,” said I.M.P., the promoter for the 9:30 Club, “We look forward to seeing everyone in April and beyond.”

Tony Sheaffer is a staff writer at the UB Post who writes a weekly music column, Friday Groove.