End Note

By Monica Prince, assistant professor of English & creative writing
Fall Winter 2021 Issue

Better

The tsunami of COVID-19 swept us
all away.
We locked our classrooms,
sent everyone home,
moved our instruction online.
In the waves of fearful confusion,
rampant misinformation,
and yes, actual death—panic was easy.
To abandon all hope of success
under the guise
of TRADITION and PEDAGOGICAL
TRAINING
and I DON’T KNOW—that was easy.
But the worshippers at the altar of liberal
arts education
bellowed, NO. FEAR NOT.
We did not absorb hopelessness,
did not wallow
in a bed of unrelenting despair,
did not walk wide-eyed
into the ocean, our pockets full of stones
stamped we tried.
No. We pivoted. We redesigned.
We changed.

We did not shatter.

This virus stretched its greedy limbs
across every continent.
In one hand, it crushed our loved ones;
in the other, it shook our stability
and time. But through it all, our students,
chests clad in maroon and gold,
chiseled a line in the concrete, bellowed:
We will handle this.

Our students are impressive.
Grounded.
Bold.
Better.

One who previously used she/her
pronouns
now declares they/them in their email
signature—that’s honest.

A high achieving burnt out student who
claimed he’d accepted
not sleeping if it meant a 4.0 last year
started asking for help this year, asked for
accommodations
he needed and deserved, all without
shame—that’s brave.

Pandemic exacerbated inequity.
We watched our students attend class on
smartphones and tablets,
from closets and backseats, with broken
cameras
and iffy Wi-Fi. We cobbled together
a difficult semester from the ashes of
disparity—and that’s resilience.

But how do we know our students are
better?

Pandemic taught them boundaries.
So many summoned the courage to
identify
who truly supported them and who
was simply
distracting from their excellence.
They left unfitting majors, toxic
friendships,
and abusive homes all because
a virus proved
love was no longer on the menu.
They asked for fair. They asked for more.
They asked for better.

Why?

Because they are. They are better.

Sometimes, as their faculty and staff,
we couldn’t honor every request—
so pandemic taught them authority
is inherently human. But being
better means
grace—being better means forgiveness.

Maybe liberal arts education elevates us
into believing we can change the world,
clean up the planet, save someone, even if
it’s just ourselves.
But this education is only as strong
as its participants—
the staff that keep everything running,
the faculty that teach
and mentor, and the students that absorb,
synthesize,
and apply their brilliance beyond our
campus walls.

Yes, we know it’s not over.
The anxiety, stress, and exhaustion
vibrating in our bone marrow.
Spontaneous bouts of raging tears,
touch hunger turned starvation—
it all still keeps us up at night.
Pandemic stole our health, our safety,
our faith in certainty and tomorrow.

But it didn’t take everything.
It cannot take everything.

Susquehanna provides our students
with skills and language and tools
to work, create, and succeed—excuse us,
to achieve, lead, and serve.
But their resilience, their passion,
their magic—
no one taught them that.

Our students are strength made flesh—
not because they belong to anyone
but themselves,
but because they return.
They persist.
They survive.
They prosper.

Liberal arts offers perspective on a world
one believes they already know, and
here’s what we know now:

Amidst all this hurt, this loss, this
trembling uncertainty,
one thing remains constant—
our students are better.
Not because they have to be—
but because they want to be.

A year gone, and they still choose better.

When this is all over,
they won’t accept what used to work.
If we follow their example,
we won’t either.
We can’t forget abandonment, suffering,
or broken trust.
But we must practice forgiveness
by demanding justice, equity, and access.
We must choose to be like our students—
to be better.
All of us.
Together.

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