Friday, April 30, 2021

A selection of responses from 125 black students about the pandemic

Over the past year, I noticed the exclusion of black student voices, despite pronouncements about a national racial reckoning. So, in March 2021 to address some of the silence, I queried and received responses from 125 black SIUE students concerning their experiences during the pandemic. For now, I am providing a sample of recurring topics:

Feeling Unmotivated

• “As a black student, the pandemic has affected my motivation to complete assignments. I usually get what I need done with no problem but now I find it hard.” –M. S.

• “The pandemic has made it more difficult for me to stay motivated. As a biracial student, I gained motivation and encouragement from the other African American students on campus. Not being able to go to campus and talk with other students has made my senior year stressful, disappointing, sad, etc. etc. This is not what I imagined my senior year to be like!” -J. B.

• “As things are kinda beginning to go back to normal or whatever normal will be, I feel like my motivation for school probably will not be the same as it was before COVID happened and that is troubling.” –A. S.

Loss of connections to fellow black students

• “The pandemic has made it hard to connect with teachers and other black students in terms of getting resources to succeed at SIUE.” –J. N.

• “The pandemic has made it hard to connect with those that understand us.” –T. T.

• “As a black student, this pandemic has made it even harder to connect with other black students for study groups or other activities. It helps to have students with a similar background as you in your learning environment. Many students have decided to stay home due to the pandemic and campus life isn't the same. Connecting virtually is an option, but it's not enough.” –K. T.

• “I think one way the pandemic has affected me as an African American student is the separation of community. Usually, I am the only black person in class, but it hits me more now because school is online. At least before I could walk around and go to events to connect and see other African American or students of color.” –J. P.

• “I can't effectively interact with my fellow black students because I'm miles away. It would be nice to become part of an African American community after coming from a predominately white school where I felt out of place.” -M. A.

• “The biggest struggle for me in regards to the pandemic has definitely been making friends. Not only do I find making friends, in general, hard but it makes it ten times harder when everyone is being told not to socialize outside of your usual; set of people. As a biracial bisexual male I find it hard to find friends that accept me for me in the first place so then when this extra block is added it makes it even harder.” -J. R.

Stress, mental health

• “As a student at SIUE, I feel that this pandemic has put a damper on my academic performance and my overall mental health. This school year has been mentally draining. I am unable to connect with my peers, my drive for learning has slowly decreased, and my educational confidence has dropped tremendously.” –K. M.

• “Due to the pandemic, many African Americans have had to drop out of college, or work from home which adds more stress and causes a decrease in grades.” –S. P.

• “The pandemic has revealed my high level of anxiety that I didn't know I was capable of having. Throughout my first year, I have really noticed I struggle with coping with stress and it turns to intense anxiety, which affects things like my schoolwork, mental, physical, and emotional being. The way I have been coping is staying inside, stress eating, and procrastinating to the fullest extent.” –A. T.

• “Mentally speaking, it has also become difficult for students to focus on school. For those who have the luxury to attend therapy session, the pandemic has been manageable. However, those who cannot afford a good insurance or even those still consider seeking professionals for their mental health as a stigma are still suffering from the pandemic.” –G. M.

• “As a black woman at SIUE, the pandemic has affected me emotionally, mentally and socially. My family is still in Kenya, and I have not visited them in a long time. I was to go visit them during the Christmas break, but I feared that the border would be closed up again and that would mean that I would miss some classes for this semester.” –E. K.

Difficulties learning

• “Being a black student, the pandemic has made it a lot more difficult to learn some of the material, because everything is online, and I feel that it will be much better to learn in person. Being a Black student, I cannot connect or bond with other black student, because of the protocols of the pandemic.” –P. S.

• “I believe that this pandemic has made it harder to actually learn some of the material. I say this because even though we are paying to be educated by professors, during this time we end up trying to teach ourselves the material instead of learning from them. I also believe that most of us would be doing better if there was face-to-face interaction/lectures and that one on one component that we now lack.” –I. B.

• “Multiple students of color I know struggle with at home learning due to their environment. Many of us grew up learning in the classroom and now we're often forced to learn in our bedroom, the place where we normally sleep and relax.” –D. W.

• “Some minority students may have to share electronics with siblings or do not have a stable internet connection to be able to stay connected to class all day. These problems will only further the divide between wealthy and poor students in the United States.” -J. J.

• “The pandemic has made it difficult for students of color to be more engaged while learning. I feel like there’s a loss of actual interest in the topics we are learning. For me personally, I feel like I’m just turning in work just to get the points and get it checked off my list.” –E. C.

• “Being an African American female, I always found it hard to ask questions in lecture for fear of being judged or called ignorant because of my race. With the use of zoom now it’s almost impossible to ask questions at all.” –P. G.

Financial struggles

• “The pandemic has made it harder to afford to continue to go to university. Many people are out of work so some students may have had to drop out to help at home, or ease the financial strain on their families.” –L. H.

• “The pandemic has been financially and emotionally tough for students of color. Many students and their families have had to suffer either working on the front line and putting themselves at risk, or they have experienced losing their jobs. Many students of color have had to decide whether it is worth it to spend tuition on solely online classes without receiving the college experience.” – J. Z.

• “Not only are many people of color trying to find a job, but they now have to watch children that would normally be in school or at daycare while trying to attend their Zoom classes. Which makes learning extremely difficult as it takes their attention away from learning the material.” –J. W.


• “The pandemic has affected my ability to be sociable with people. I'm naturally a closed off person and wanted to make an effort to interact with more people and try new things at the university. Once it started all those plans went out the window.” –C. W.

• “As a transfer student, the pandemic has made it difficult to connect with my peers. As an African American student, the pandemic has been hard. I have seen many of my friends drop of college because of the pandemic. Some had to choose between work or school.” –B. B.

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