Over the past three years, Marlboro College student Charlie Hickman hasn’t left Potash Hill for more than a few months at a time. If the proposed Emerson-Marlboro merger goes through, Hickman and their peers may never live on the hill again, as all Marlboro classes are moving online for the remainder of the semester.
“I’ve lived here since my freshman year—I haven’t left,” Hickman told The Beacon in a phone interview. “And while I understand why we have to leave, that doesn’t make it feel any better. And the fact that we don’t get to come back in the fall makes it a million times worse.”
Marlboro College President Kevin Quigley announced in an email Monday evening that the college would be transitioning to online classes after spring break—which ends on March 30—for the remainder of the semester. The college is giving students until March 22 to move out of their residences.
The Beacon reported on Friday that Marlboro classes were transitioning online for two weeks but Quigley said updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data swayed his decision to move them online for the remainder of the semester.
“The CDC’s guidance has shifted,” Quigley said in a phone interview. “We’re trying to follow the best practice … we’re also wondering about our ability to support students in our isolated setting if staff and faculty start getting sick.”
Quigley said the decision is in the best interest of students, despite the negative immediate impact.
“This probably sounds counterintuitive, but it’s thinking about our students’ best interest—of trying to provide some certainty in a time of enormous uncertainty that is anxiety-producing,” he said.
Hickman said the pain of leaving Potash Hill for possibly the last time is compounded by the inability to grieve uninhibited with their fellow students.
“It’s so sad that we don’t get to be a community right now because we’re not supposed to be touching each other,” they said. “There are no words to describe how absolutely devastating this is.”
Hickman said the community was looking forward to sharing the potentially last semester on the hill with one another before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
“[We were hoping] to have a semester that we were all going to have together to be able to commiserate with one another, and now we’re going to be scattered across the country—that is heartbreaking,” they said. “There’s no way to make it better.”
Quigley said he is confident that Marlboro will be able to adjust its current classes to an online medium.
“Our faculty and students are working together to make the best of these very challenging circumstances,” he said. “It’s going to require a lot of flexibility and creativity on the part of our students and faculty, but I’m confident that they will find ways to do what needs to be done in the days ahead.”
Hickman said they are hopeful they’ll get to say goodbye to their community again.
“Hopefully, we can have a commencement ceremony some time and be able to say goodbye as a community, because that’s what’s being taken from us right now,” Hickman said. “It breaks my heart that I might be leaving Marlboro and then have to show up to Emerson in the fall without having a real end.”