Pandemic changes the ‘HBCU experience’

Masks and social distancing are watering down the HBCU experience.ence. Photo courtesy USA Today

When one thinks of an historically Black college and university, one might think of Black excellence, divine nine fraternities and sororities, and interacting in a reversed world where African Americans are the majority race.

An HBCU experience is a once in a lifetime experience that many do not have the luxury of experiencing.

Because of COVID-19, most universities are almost fully digital and online. Is it still possible to live through the same experience?

Growing up, I went to a predominantly white high school. I was always the oddball. People expected me to be dumb or ignorant and I was always called white whenever I showed signs of being intelligent. FAMU has become a safe space for me where I surround myself around people who are like me. Who I am feels normalized here. The freshmen today do not get to experience that because of social distancing,” said Aisha Peguero, a fourth-year health science major from Winter Haven.

Ever since campus life has become limited, interactions with other students have gone down. Being in large groups is incredibly dangerous as it increases the risk of catching the virus. Before, there would be on-campus events where students can get to know each other and socialize.

Many students of African descent who go to HBCUs were able to embrace their culture. For once, students are surrounded by people from similar upbringings who understand the struggle of being a minority in America and who want to beat the odds and strive in a world that does not always strive for them. With less interaction, meeting people is harder and scarce with little to do.

Coming into freshman year three years ago, we were exposed to Greek life and educational events held by Greeks. You could feel the history while watching the divine nine Greeks stroll. I would not be surprised if there are freshmen who do not even know what Greek life is,” Bryan Ray, a fourth-year electrical engineering major from St. Pete who is a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, said.

When Greeks host events, it is a way to educate the students as well as inform them about the fraternitys or sororitys customs and importance. Because of rules and regulations to keep the campus healthy, campus organizations are not allowed to have events or any huge gatherings.

Believe it or not, partying and having fun is just as important to a college experience as campus and student life is. Going to parties, students are hearing familiar music and are able to bond and relate to songs they grew up to and currently enjoy. Unity is formed and the family aspect of classmates is created.

Ive seen so many movies and heard so many stories from my parents about HBCU life and how amazing it is to be around people who are similar to you. This is one of the reasons why I applied to FAMU. Because of risks of catching the virus, I spend most of my time in my dorm. I do not even leave my room for class considering all my classes are online. Maybe next year if the virus goes away, I will be able to get the true experience that my parents were fortunate enough to receive,” Savannah Huntly, a first year pre-nursing major from Orlando, said.

Making classes online and easily accessible from home may be the best solution for getting an education during a pandemic, but the experience is not the same as it was. Hopefully before the time the freshmen graduate, the COVID-19 pandemic will be over, and things can go back to how they were.