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Updated: Nov 10, 2020

The first time I visited Allegheny College was in February of 2020 when snow and slush were on the ground and everyone was hurrying as quickly as possible from point A to point B. When I subsequently learned I’d be joining Allegheny as a faculty member in Fall 2020, I envisioned walking through the campus in September, past green spaces alive with students, squeezing through the bustling corridors of Carr Hall, and enjoying regular coffee breaks in the student-run cafe, "Grounds for Change". That wasn’t the scene any of us found when classes started in August for the new academic year.

I had moved to Meadville in July, in the midst of a global health pandemic that continues to cast uncertainty over the present and future. I was here at Allegheny, but I wasn’t. I made the decision to teach remotely in the Fall for a multitude of reasons.

"It was the right decision, but at the same time, I was disappointed not to be able to interact with students face-to-face."

Becoming an Allegheny community member thus became about building connections in other spaces--the virtual classroom, the virtual coffee shop, the virtual faculty lounge. In a weird way, these virtual spaces became an opportunity to build a different kind of relationship with my new community.

As a student and practitioner of feminist pedagogy, I’ve always struggled with the power dynamics built into the traditional classroom space--the professor at the front, the students all facing the teacher. In a virtual classroom, we’re all just squares on a Zoom screen with the freedom to choose how we want to be seen and what we want to share about our lives. In a weird way, I’m grateful I get to meet Allegheny students this way, in a space that requires us to actively imagine and build the community we want to inhabit. Joining Allegheny in the midst of COVID-19 has been, for me, a reminder that a campus is a social relation, not just a physical place.

~~ Delia Byrnes (Professor in Environmental Science and Sustainability Department, Allegheny College)

Hanging together and staying connected is a vital part of what Allegheny College strives to do. Your generosity in clicking on the button on the left, and donating, allows more students the opportunities to join our community, whether they are remote or in-person.


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