MAY 8, 2020
VOLUME 95, ISSUE 21
I remember at our last in-person, full-staff meeting for the Herald, the coronavirus was in some ways a joke — nothing that could genuinely harm us here at WKU, nothing that could change the fabric of our daily lives. I brought up our rough “back-up” protocol, in case the virus did reach Kentucky and in case it by some crazy situation caused WKU to shut down. I didn’t think it would happen, but here we are. We did something this semester I doubt any person at the Herald ever anticipated doing. In just hours we completely altered our way of thinking and functioning. We learned how to make a newspaper run completely remotely. Like many Herald staffers, I have my own collection of the print copy of the Herald. Each one reminds me of the hard work the staff put in, the coffee runs, the absolute anxiety of a production night and the feeling of pride I have when it’s all over. In my time, the print issue has gone from twice a week, to once a week to now something different. It’s an exciting evolution, but print has always stayed constant. There’s a lot of things I’ve grieved from this semester — graduation, last Starbucks Mondays, Greek Week, saying goodbye to WKU the way it was for four years of my life. I can’t explain the grief I feel about not having those last print editions, production nights, staff meetings. I won’t be able to get pied in the face by Laurel Deppen, your next editor-in-chief and one of my great friends. I won’t get to look this amazing staff in the eye and thank them for their tremendous work and patience throughout this chaotic time.
LETTER FROM EXITING EDITOR
But we do get to leave you with this, readers. As an editorial board we desired and felt responsible to make something physical and lasting to show how life changed, how we made adjustments, the sacrifices we made, the hardships we faced. In making this final print issue of the Spring 2020 semester we hope this can be a lasting, historical document of how life was in these uncertain and unprecedented times. Above all else, I hope these stories have helped keep this WKU community together. In this issue, you’ll find stories about seniors who lost the last moments of their college experience (page 30), the future of athletics (page 43), how businesses have adjusted to survive the quarantine (page 23) and new challenges local nurses face (page 26). I owe a great deal of gratitude to so many people, but I’ll name a few here. Thank you to this staff for working tirelessly, putting up with my awkward Zoom meetings and making this a semester we can all celebrate and be proud of. Thank you readers for staying with us during this period of distance. This job, this publication has helped me feel at least slightly less alone, and I hope it’s done the same for you. Thank you for the memories, WKU. Peace out.
Rebekah Alvey, Spring 2020 Editor-In-Chief Editior-in-Cheif
CONTENTS Front Cover and Contents photos by Gabi Broekema
How COVID-19 may impact the future of higher education
Dispatched Herald photographers share their stay-at-home experience
Racism towards Asian community
Haves and have nots
“It could happen to you”
OPINION Social effects of COVID-19
OPINION We need to consider our lives within the context of a society with a wide range of class and age
OPINION A WKU senior recounts living with COVID-19
Risky business Bowling Green buisnesses struggle during quarantine
‘I have cried with my patients.’ Local healthcare workers impacted by COVID-19
Farewell from the Hill
32 ‘The spirit of WKU’ 38 Seniors reflect on their time on the Hill
The path to the mascot bracket national championship
Stand up and cheer? Long-term effects of COVID-19 could present significant budgetary concerns for WKU Athletics
WHAT’S By Rebekah Alvey and Laurel Deppen
How the pandemic may impact the future of higher education 4
Just over a century ago, WKU, which was then called Western Kentucky State Normal School, was going through a similar pandemic. The 1918 flu pandemic completely altered campus for a period, causing the university to close for a month, David Lee, university historian and former provost, said. People wore masks and were prohibited from large gatherings, and an estimated twothirds of students were infected. Faced with a pandemic which hit the younger population, the university was unsure what the future would hold. “In the depths of the pandemic in 1918, Henry Hardin Cherry said that he was confident that his school, that education would come through stronger and better than ever,” Lee said. “I don’t see any reason why that couldn’t be the case again.” While WKU is making preparations for the next semester, it’s difficult to completely say what the future will hold. However, by looking at the past and how the campus has reacted since this pandemic began, higher education can begin to map a way forward. WKU President Timothy Caboni has repeatedly said that though he plans on WKU students returning to the Hill in the fall, “this August won’t look anything like last August.” Caboni said a possible way to maintain social distancing in a classroom setting would be hosting 300-person lecture classes in other, nonconventional locations, like Van Meter Hall or Diddle Arena. “We have to think creatively about the spaces that we have available to us and how we create that social distance,” Caboni said. Another solution could be staggered instruction, where students alternate days they attend class physically or online. But another key part of campus life isn’t as easy to adapt for social distancing guidelines: shared living and dining spaces. Caboni said everyone’s safety
will be considered first. He envisions students wearing masks and perhaps giving at-risk faculty and students telework options. “Until we have a vaccine or until you feel safe, but I’d be making the same choice for me,” Caboni said. “... I know we’re going to have to be intentional to take care of everyone who’s vulnerable.” During this time, Caboni encouraged everyone to be “comfortable with uncertainty,” noting it is a hard thing to ask of people. “I think what we have to do is not box ourselves in to make decisions earlier than they need to be made — to give us as much time to know as much as we can so that our decisions are in the best interest of everyone,” he said.
Due to the pandemic and the societal shift it’s created, Caboni predicts higher education does have some challenges ahead especially when it comes to finances and the economy. Other state universities such as University of Kentucky and University of Louisville have announced budget cuts that include employee furloughs and layoffs. UK faces a $70 million deficit in the next year, while UofL is facing a $40 million deficit in the final three months of its fiscal year. Already, Caboni said some smaller, private or liberal arts colleges which rely heavily on tuition have announced closings. In the current fiscal year, Caboni has repeatedly said WKU’s budget is stable and tracking — however next year’s budget will present challenges and is still uncertain. On April 22 Caboni announced the Executive Budget Council would develop a set of recommendations for the projected 2021 budget. These recommendations will be released to the public on Friday and later approved by the special-called Board of Regents meeting in June. Without a current deficit, Caboni said WKU was at an
advantage to manage future declines in revenue. Ahead of the meeting, Caboni announced the university would see a 1% decrease in money from the state. The coronavirus pandemic would “significantly” affect the 2021 budget, Caboni wrote in an email. When asked about the potential of a tuition increase due to the strained economic situation, Caboni said given the “enormous challenges” the community is facing, including increased unemployment filings, he’d “find it difficult to see a way to place any additional burdens on our students and their family.” “My expectation is that as a community, we’ll engage in some shared sacrifice together so that we can all get through this together,” Caboni said. At the April 17 Board of Regents committee meeting, Caboni announced he was taking a 10% salary reduction and would forego any bonuses and funnel it into the Opportunity Fund for WKU families. Members of WKU Athletics including Director of Athletics Todd Stewart, men’s basketball coach Rick Stansbury and football coach Tyson Helton similarly took a 10% reduction. While no one can fully predict when life will fully return to normal, Caboni said he is hopeful the state will reopen and begin to generate some of its lost revenue. “But this is not going to be a light switch that we flick on,” Caboni said. “We may have to turn back a little bit if it feels like you’re spiking and then continue toward what will be a different way of working next August.”
LOOKING AT THE PAST TO DETERMINE OUR FUTURE
In navigating through this pandemic Caboni and Lee have
examined how universities and higher education adapted after other historic challenges. Most past challenges to higher education and WKU have related to growth, Lee said. These challenges meant institutions had to find ways to handle expansions and to create new opportunities. “What we’re looking at now is something that challenges us in a different direction,” Lee said For a while, Lee said higher education has been finding new ways to teach and learn, and he believes this pandemic may accelerate that experimentation and innovation. Beyond that, he said he hopes universities will find better ways to reach students who are not currently engaged by higher education. Marko Duman i , director for the Center for Innovative Teaching & Learning, said since the pandemic, CITL has transitioned about 2,500 course sections to an online format and over 700 faculty have attended webinars, adding up to thousands of hours. In a recent virtual panel, faculty members were asked how this period may change their teaching in the future. Dumančić said many of the responses involved how technology has changed interaction with students not just in helping them learn but also providing advising sessions. “I think faculty are even more open to the idea of technology facilitating contact inside and outside the classroom,” Dumančić said. As higher education and teaching incorporate technology, Dumančić said the fundamentals will remain but faculty will just have more tools to fulfill those goals of
teaching and connecting with students. In the past, he said faculty may have been too busy to experiment with the tools they are using now. “Clearly nobody wanted for the situation to happen in the way that it did, particularly in the way that’s affected the personal lives of both faculty and students,” Dumančić said. “But what I’ve been impressed with is the resilience of faculty to find the right kinds of educational tools for their students.” While Caboni has appeared optimistic about returning to campus, Dumančić said CITL is prepared for any outcome. Normally, CITL offers programs in online, in-person and hybrid classes. They are still prepared to do that and just need to adjust the emphasis. “I think we’re positioned as a university better because we’ve done the work that’s necessary to make these things happen,” Dumančić said. If the university does conduct classes online again, Duman i said CITL will continue to have similar training they held in the past eight weeks but will include more depth and specifics. Through the end of this semester, he said the campus has seen what works for faculty and students, and they will focus on these tools more in the future.
CHANGES TO COME
As the university looks for ways to move forward, Caboni said he believes this experience has made the campus respect and appreciate in-person learning more. “The vast majority of higher education professors [and] administrators love young people and the transformative experience that we work together to create with young people,” Caboni said. “Not having that in person
experience I think makes us all value it that much more.” Additionally, Caboni said WKU needs to remain focused on being a university of opportunity and accessibility. One way of doing this would be to stay focused on the scholarship program. “No matter how difficult budgets might become, we have to say priority one is making sure that we remain accessible,” Caboni said. Moving forward, Lee said he anticipates public health issues on campus becoming a priority to parents, students and recruitment. He cited past issues with mold in residence halls at WKU and across the country and now the pandemic. “I think residential campuses are going to be thinking seriously and imaginatively about how you assure public health,” Lee said. “I think students and parents are going to have sharper questions for us about how we do that.” Change is always difficult and sometimes painful. However, Lee said he is optimistic and confident in campus leadership, students, faculty and staff to make those changes. “The pandemic is probably forcing us to learn something about ourselves — it’s probably forcing us to think in new ways, but that’s who we are, that’s what we do,” Lee said. “It’s a challenge that we can beat successfully.”
Editor-in-Chief Rebekah Alvey can be reached at rebekah.alvey660@topper. wku.edu. Follow her on Twitter at @bekah_alvey. Managing Editor Laurel Deppen can be reached at laurel.deppen774@topper. wku.edu. Follow her on Twitter @laurel_deppen.
Gabrielle Sledge (left), a health science major and Anna Gibson, a nursing major, sit in Centennial Mall at WKU on March 22, 2020. Both Gibson nd Sledge agreed Kentucky’s government and universities are handling the coronavirus crisis effectively. “Andy Beshear’s killed it,” Sledge said.
By Jack Dobbs, Leo Bertucci Photo by Jack Dobbs After nearly four years at WKU, senior David Breidenich is searching for a new routine. Breidenich, a history and social studies major from Independence, was teaching at Allen County-Scottsville High School before the coronavirus forced him to make changes. WKU announced March 17 it was moving to onlineonly classes for the rest of the semester due to COVID-19. Breidenich’s school moved to a non-traditional instruction format on the same day. Since the high school
moved to a non-traditional instruction format, the teacher Breidenich works under has only given him a few online tasks, he said. Breidenich is searching for teaching positions for after graduation, and he’s focusing on what’s available in northern Kentucky, he said. “I make sure to look at job postings every day,” Breidenich said. “I’ve been trying to polish up my resume.” Since his responsibilities as a student teacher have decreased, Breidenich recently joined a lawn care
service crew, which was something he did this past summer as well. “There’s a lot of fulfillment and satisfaction in it,” Breidenich said. “My body is still trying to readjust to the heavy work regimen.” Because of COVID-19, Breidenich said he wears a mask on the job site. In order to limit social interaction with his coworkers, Breidenich doesn’t ride in a company vehicle to the job site. He provides his own transportation instead. “The workload has not changed,” Breidenich said.
“It’s pretty much the same.” Landon Oliver, a senior interdisciplinary studies major from Hendersonville, Tennessee, was a lab assistant at the Jody Richards Hall computer lab before it shut down on March 26. “The first thing that came to mind was, wow, I don’t know what to do,” Oliver said. “I can live here in my apartment, but there only is so much that we can do.” A few of his professors have decreased their course workload, Oliver said. “Some of my classes didn’t have too many assignments
already,” Oliver said. Oliver said he had applied for a few internships, but he’s wondered if any of those positions will actually be filled if COVID-19 continues to place limits on opportunities. If he doesn’t secure an internship, Oliver said he will try to look for another source of income. “We still have classes, but they’re only online, so that gives me some time to focus and understand where I need to go,” Oliver said. Victoria Terhune, a junior psychology and communication studies major
from Louisville, said studying at home is difficult because her house is too noisy and busy. She works on homework for three to four hours a day. “I’ve had to clearly set boundaries and times for myself to do homework instead of spending time with my family,” Terhune said. “I try to keep my afternoons or evenings open to socializing with friends and family.” Terhune hopes by next semester campus and classes will be back to normal. “I’m trying to be optimistic about it all,” Terhune said. This challenge has particularly hit programs like the fine arts, where in-person tools or instruction feels necessary. Amanda Clark, coordinator of the WKU dance program, said making the shift to digital learning has been “quite difficult.” “Most of our classes are movement based courses where students are on their feet and working through a physical modality,” Clark said. “They’re using their bodies as instruments to embrace theories and research ideas.” Clark said the initial plan was to focus on the theoretical side of dance. After in-person classes were cancelled for the rest of the semester though, Clark said some adjustments had to be made. “We are all doing a mixture of readings, online video viewing, discussions, written responses and movementbased exercises,” Clark said. “I plan to meet with all of my classes each week via Zoom. I believe the ‘face-to-face’ interaction is important for the students right now.” Clark said the adjustment to Zoom has been tough, since it is difficult to teach a movement-based class over a teleconference. “Being able to fully see 15-20 moving bodies on a laptop screen restricts the amount of feedback I am able to give or corrections that I can provide,” Clark said. “As a result, students are learning how to take
greater ownership over their movement execution and selfcueing abilities.” Cassie Duffy, a junior dance major, said she had to make some changes to adjust to online learning. “I just never imagined having to find a space for me to dance,” Duffy said. Duffy said the biggest challenge she has encountered with the change to online learning is a lack of space to do her movements. She said she has a lot of large objects in her room that rob space. “I try to focus on what is a weak point of that movement that maybe I can focus on, rather than the whole movement,” Duffy said. David Young is head of WKU’s Department of Theatre and Dance. He said it has proven difficult to recreate a dance or acting class online.
“It’s not a perfect solution for those of us in the arts,” Young said. “I know some of the acting teachers were going to switch over to asking students to work on monologues and submit them as a video.” Theatre and dance are not the only programs that are seeing challenges. Kristina Arnold, head of WKU’s art department, said she and her colleagues are finding different ways to get around the online-only problem. “We have specific studio spaces in which to work, with specialized tools and equipment and rely heavily on in-class demonstrations, hands-on experimentation and problem-solving, immediate feedback and group conversations,” Arnold said in an email. “Every faculty member is in the process of figuring out ways to modify
their class projects to literally fit inside a student’s living room.” Arnold said one solution has been allowing students to take art supplies home to use for their projects, like clay and carving tools. “We know our students won’t have a woodshop or an etching press available, so we’re changing requirements so that they are able to use what they do have readily available,” Arnold said. Fine arts students are not the only ones who have had to make adjustments to their learning. Joe Lewis, a meteorology major from Owensboro, said his classes have done “a complete 180.” “It’s turned into a lot of paperwork,” Lewis said. “It’s something I haven’t done since freshman year, so its been really tedious.” Lewis works as a desk
assistant at WKU and said he came back to campus for a week before the university moved to online classes for the rest of the semester. Lewis said he thinks the university has handled the crisis “perfectly.” “I believe that if we stayed open it would have been terrible,” Lewis said. “People would have been getting sick left and right. I feel like we have a grasp on what’s happening and what we need to do.”
News reporter Jack Dobbs can be reached at jack. firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @ jackrdobbs. News reporter Leo Bertucci can be reached at email@example.com. edu. Follow him on Twitter @ leober2chee.
Photo by Reed Mattison as gyms close in bowling green students look for alternative workout opportunities. Students climb the steps of the colonnades in April of 2020.
DISPATCHED Words by Abigail James
When the coronavirus began to ramp up, we were thrust into a new way of life. We left our dorms and apartments and went back to our hometowns. Now we wait for the next coronavirus update from our governor. We sit here looking at Blackboard assignments and Zoom meetings. We wait for things to return back to normal while realizing this has become the new normal. We put our best foot forward in hopes it’ll all wash over with the passing of the days while in reality, all of the days seem to blend like the colors of the sunset. There is no set end, no telling when the true beginning of this all was. As the photo staff of the Herald, we have separated but we still work together. In this section, we show things that we have tapped into at home like nature, family and emotion. That no matter how hard life gets, life goes on, and we all have a unique story. 1. Photo by Brittany Fisher As churches in the area closed due to the Coronavirus I decided to join other St. Louis area photographers in taking front porch photos. With Easter weekend coming up and people realizing they would be having unconventional Easter holidays, I decided to reach out to families for an alternative to traditional Easter photos. Pictured is Dan and Christy Hempen and their three children Trinity, Nehemiah and their new baby Chloe. 2. Photo by Sam Mallon I find myself exhausted though my quarantine days are filled with very little movement. I long for places to go and people to see; I am grieving the couldhave, would-have, should-have-beens. I am grateful that I am safe and it is my responsibility to keep others safe, so I have been staying inside and learning to spend time with myself. I have found solace in the fact that the trees are turning green — they remind me that we are all still growing — I am eager to see how much stronger we are on the other side of the current pandemic. 3. Photo by Alexandra Hendricks Three weeks into quarantine, Kate Hendricks’s mom, Stephanie, finally agreed to cut Kate’s bobbed hair as it became increasingly unruly for Kate. Stephanie had argued against cutting Kate’s hair before because, although she trimmed her children’s hair as toddlers, she has no formal education in cutting hair. “Oh no, what did you do there?” Kate’s dad joked to make her nervous. Despite the jokes, Kate was very satisfied with the result. 4. Photo by Megan Fisher Caution tape surrounds the empty playground at Shenandoah Valley
Elementary School in Chesterfield, Missouri. on April 11. Schools in St. Louis announced that they will not reopen for the remainder of the school year on April 9. E-learning for all St. Louis students will continue through May 21. 5. Photo by Alexandra Hendricks Claire Hendricks and her mom, Stephanie, read “A Series of Unfortunate Events” together almost daily. Claire, who usually only reads graphic novels, is excited each day to read with her mom. “I’m glad I read with her because I have something to do while waiting for this to pass over,” Claire said. Stephanie works mainly from home due to COVID-19, allowing her to spend more time with Claire and be more active in her schooling and daily activities. 6. Photo by Megan Fisher Edwin Fisher repairs a damaged geocache at August A. Busch Wildlife Area in St. Charles, Missouri on April 5. “Geocaching is a great way for families to get outdoors and be active,” Fisher said. “It is like a scavenger hunt, but using a GPS with a set of coordinates,” With the closures of parks on April 3, many residents have been pushed to continue their outdoor activities at conservation areas or parks that remain open outside of the St. Louis County Area. 7. Photo by Georgia Mallett Cynthia Mitchell, my mother, gets ready to go into Grocery Outlet in Ellensburg, Washington. Every time we go out, we wear masks, gloves and wash our hands before and after going into stores. “It makes me a little nervous to go into stores, not majorly,” Mitchell said. “I try to consolidate and get what I need while I’m there.”
8. Photo by Chris Kohley My father, Keith Kohley, practices guitar at our home in Naperville, Illinois. Like me, everything has shifted online for him. He works from home taking many conference calls per day and even has his guitar lessons via video chat. I’m very thankful that my dad continues to have a job in this time unlike so many others that have been thrust into unemployment.
PLUGGED IN Professors across WKU adapt to online class shift By Julianna Lowe WKU moved its spring semester classes to an onlineonly format on March 17 to combat the coronavirus outbreak. In order for this switch to happen, professors had to prepare. English Professor Alex Poole started to prepare “the day they announced the changes.” Some professors began preparing earlier than that. “When we heard on March 11, I started preparing,” political science Professor Timothy Rich said. “I emailed students that day and had updated syllabi on Blackboard on March 13. I also started learning Zoom that Friday as well.” Rich also commented that he didn’t have much faith in other faculty for having a “great sense” of online classes until a few days before the university reconvened. Equine science Professor Jennifer Gill started preparing during the university’s extended Spring Break. “I began [preparing] during the extra week of Spring Break,” Gill said. “I already teach an online class and completed a certification program offered by WKU through CITL, so I was pretty prepared for the switch.” No matter how prepared for the switch to online classes WKU’s professors were, the change from in-person class to online class has caused a deficit in education. Gill, who teaches laboratory classes like Introduction to Horse Science and Equine Health, has seen a loss
in her planned activities for the semester. “I had planned hands-on activities, and these were canceled,” Gill said. Gill’s classes have a large laboratory component at the WKU Agriculture Equestrian Unit. She is also responsible for an independent study in horse breeding and foaling, which was centered around the foal that was born on March 19. “Students were going to participate in foal watch,” Gill said. “It was unfortunate that most of the students were not around for that special event.” Gill also teaches an agriculture course with a co-op equine experience that takes place at the WKU farm. “Students gain work experience at the university farm and through an optional service learning opportunity at New Beginnings Therapeutic Riding Center,” Gill said. “This was converted to online after COVID-19, but the practical experience cannot be replicated on resumes.” Rich also noted several losses in his classes since the switch to online classes. One thing that he noted was that he feels more concerned about students now than ever. “It’s much harder to tell if students are grasping the information or even paying attention,” Rich said. “I’m
Illustration by Alex Cox concerned that some students erroneously think that logging into Zoom and just walking away somehow counts for credit.” In order to combat this, Rich has been conducting live classes over Zoom at the
same time his classes normally met, and he records the class sessions so that he can post them to Blackboard along with the Powerpoints. However, he realizes that online classes change the circumstances for a lot of students. “Many students don’t have stable internet access or don’t have microphones or a quiet room, so live participation is certainly complicated,” Rich said. “More complex assignments might need to be pared down. Group assignments become much
more difficult, especially if there’s no variance in internet access.” Rich also notes that there is a lag in communication with his students. “Students with questions can’t just pop by the office,” Rich said. “While I’m quick to respond to emails, a lot of students just won’t take that step, which is unfortunate.” Poole noted that the biggest loss he has experienced with online classes is discussion with his students. “They are possible but not as rewarding and spontaneous,” Poole said. “Also, communication is slower. Mistakes and miscommunication which would normally be taken care of during class can take a lot of time to resolve.” Because professors are struggling most with the absence of face-to-face sessions, they have been working feverishly to compensate for this loss. Poole has been compensating for face-to-face sessions with Zoom meetings and discussion board posts on Blackboard. Rich has taken a similar form of digitalization to his classes. “I’m still having office hours via Zoom and usually have private meetings with a least a few students each day,” Rich said. “Besides the video updates, I try to convey the same information in emails to
students as well. I opted to go with synchronous classes and video to provide some sense of normalcy.” Rich understands that some students do not have the same schedule at home that they did at school, so he wants to ensure that all students are fairly getting the information. The normalcy and consistency that Rich provides has received positive feedback from his students. Gill’s hands-on classes are not so easy to compensate for, but she has found ways. She attended a Zoom seminar with the Equine Science Society and the National Association of Equine-Affiliated Academics that provided her with resources for hands-on learning. “I have been having students complete online training,” Gill said of a website that she learned about at the seminar. “Activities and online interactive seminars over a variety of topics are hosted by equine professionals from all over the nation.” Not only does she require online training, but Gill also directs her students toward YouTube videos that contain how-to tutorials and demonstrations. She has also had her students submit presentations of their learning “Other equine extension professions are posting YouTube channel videos for 4H groups that students can access,” Gill said. “Students in my breeding and foaling practicum class have been submitting presentations and completing [online] activities
and submitting screenshots of their completion for credit.” Professors have stepped up and made changes to their classes in order to adjust to this time in WKU’s education. Regardless of the changes made, this switch to finishing the semester’s classes online can be worrisome. “We’ll finish,” Rich said. “But I do have some pretty big concerns.” Rich was particularly worried about the new P/D/F option that the university is offering for final grades. He sees it as appropriate in a lot of situations, but he is also wary of the fact that some students may take it for granted. “I’m concerned that many students feel that they can now skip assignments and coast into a C,” Rich said. “However, that requires students to have been doing fairly well prior to going online. For students that were doing low C work or worse before, I think the PDF gives false hope [because] some students still seem to think it’s a pass-fail option too, so they are gunning for a 60. That’s dangerous.” On the other hand, he is worried about students’ lives at home. Rich wants to be able to maintain standards of the classroom but also make room for these changes in students’ home lives. “We have students who are sick, who are now taking care of family members and have other commitments that are being shifted around as well,” Rich said. “Flexibility while maintaining standards can be accomplished.” Rich said that he was also concerned about the consistency of other faculty members’ communication with students. He expressed confidence that most of the faculty is doing well under the conditions, but he also noted that the feedback from his students was not what he hoped it would be. “I had several students
mention that they were going into the first week of online classes not knowing what the format would be or if assignments had changed,” Rich said. “Others still said that they weren’t sure what was going on in certain classes as there was little consistent interaction or updates. That’s a recipe for problems.” Overall, Rich is also concerned about the little things that are out of his control. For example, WKU’s offices are not open, so he expressed concerns for graduating seniors and their need for filled-out forms. Poole’s worries took on a broader scope, one that included the future. “I worry that we will again be in this situation sometime next year,” Poole said. “I also worry about students’ mental health. Many of them are
alone, lacking financial support and scared.” On the contrary, Gill believes that there is no reason to fear ending the spring semester online. She said that she is confident it’s temporary and shouldn’t be too impactful on undergraduate students. Her main worries lie with her graduate students. “I do have some anxiety over my graduate students completing this semester,” Gill said. “Research has been suspended, and we were to begin in August. I also don’t know if the company that was funding the study will still be able to provide the full grant.” Regardless of the different approaches that these professors have to the changes, and in lieu of the drawbacks that have come out of the coronavirus outbreak, some
professors at WKU expressed uplifting successes with the transition. “I feel that my Blackboard sites are well laid out and easy for students to follow what they need to do to complete the course,” Gill said. A lot of professors have opted for using Zoom to take the place of in-class discussions, which has yielded a lot of success. “I found Zoom worked really well for a discussion when students were prepared,” Rich said. “The polling functions in Zoom are useful to how people are doing.” Rich also expressed that he found discussion boards to be useful. All in all, Rich said that this entire experience has been beneficial. “As someone who never taught an online class, now I
certainly feel more equipped to do so in the future and have a better sense of what works and what doesn’t,” Rich said. This transition has been difficult for everyone involved, but professors and students are working together to make this situation work. “I think my students and I have been very flexible,” Poole said. “We have quickly transitioned and shown patience with each other and ourselves.” Features reporter Julianna Lowe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. edu. Follow Julianna on social media at @juliannalowe.
Photo by Jack Dobbs
IT’S NOT THE ‘CHINESE VIRUS’ Asian students at WKU face racism during the COVID-19 pandemic Illustration by Alex Cox
Reports of racist remarks and behaviors toward the Asian community drastically increased throughout the country following the declaration of the pandemic. In the news, 471 cases related to xenophobia or discrimination were reported in a one-month span (Feb. 9 through March 7) according to a study done by San Francisco State University. Even here at WKU, where only about 2% of students are of Asian descent, racism reared its ugly head. Su Yee Myint Aung, a senior international student, was walking to her campus job when someone yelled “corona” at her from their car. Su Yee said she is now afraid to walk to work, which is only eight minutes from her apartment. “People would act this way because the corona outbreak originally came from China,”
Su Yee said. “And they automatically assume all people who look like Asians are from China, which leads to this racism and discrimination against Asians.” Su Yee is Burmese. Sophomore Eumin Shin, who is Korean, received nasty comments online that related her with the virus. Shin agreed with Su Yee that many Americans assume Asian people are from China. “It doesn’t really bother me because I’m not generally a very offendable person,” Shin said. “It’s just overall non sequitur because it makes me wonder if there’s an undertone of actual racism within the individual who’s saying it.” And while this virus did come from the Wuhan province of China, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said it is wrong to call COVID-19
By Jake Dressman
the “Chinese Virus,” which President Donald Trump has tweeted several times. Trump cited the “Chinese Virus” as a reason to build his southern border wall in one tweet, and he has also said he has a “high degree of confidence” that a lab in Wuhan was the origin of the virus. However, the scientific community has made it clear the coronavirus is not a product of humanity. The virus was transferred from animals and genetically mutated — as viruses tend to do — to replicate in humans, according to an article from the research journal Nature Medicine. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement Thursday that it’s investigating whether the virus was an accident in the Wuhan lab or from natural human to animal contact.
According to a report from the Department of Homeland Security, the Chinese government attempted to cover up the severity of the coronavirus so it could hoard medical supplies. But just like how I have nothing to do with the U.S. government’s highly criticized response to the virus, Asian Americans have absolutely nothing to do with Chinese government actions, and they certainly do not have any more likelihood to carry the virus than anyone else. Ke Peng, WKU’s director of the Chinese Flagship program, said via email she has not experienced any discrimintion since the pandemic has been declared, but she offered some of her opinions on her experience. “Unfortunately, I may not be the best person to know this,” Peng said about discrimination. “I am not
sensitive to others’ view or behavior, as I am not living in other people’s definitions, labeling or narratives. “There is a lot of misinformation out there. It is crucial for everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, to use our critical thinking to evaluate all the perspectives before jumping to a conclusion. “Hold no fear about death, loss or change. Fear does not help in any way, shape or form. Generally speaking, Asians are educated to be self-reflective. This pandemic offers us a valuable opportunity to look inside ourselves, and focus more on who we truly are, and what we are doing here.”
Opinion Editor Jake Dressman can be reached at jacob.dressman200@topper. wku.edu.
HAVES AND HAVE NOTS
Issue: The COVID-19 pandemic has increased class differences, and many think their liberty is threatened by government safety measures. Stance: Liberty and security are not always competing values. We need to consider our lives within the context of a society with a wide range of class and age differences. There is a lot of uncertainty and fear in the air. You can see it in people’s eyes walking down the street or in the grocery store. An abundance of fear is a virus in itself. But perhaps even more dangerous than fear is the complete disregard of a major public health problem. While many preach about the government overstepping its bounds, the purpose of measures like wearing a mask is to ensure the safety of our fellow citizens — not bend the knee to Gov. Andy Beshear, whose executive orders will expectedly lessen in degree and number as the situation improves. Libertarian ideas are important to keep government oversight in check, but when it comes to preventing the spread of a dangerous and deadly disease, safety of others supersedes Maggie’s need to throw a rager for her 21st birthday party, or John’s desire to make a political statement. Being unconcerned about the coronavirus is not valuing liberty. By ignoring precautions, you are putting others’ liberty — their right to a healthy and safe life — at risk. Liberty is about common sense. You do not fly through stop signs in neighborhoods just because you can. That would put the lives of the more vulnerable, like children in this case, in grave danger. This is particularly important because the pandemic has amplified class differences — causing those without proper access to healthcare and technology to suffer disproportionately. First and foremost, the scientific community is learning more about this virus everyday.
By Herald Editorial Board
Illustration by Alex Cox There could be as many as 14 mutations of the coronavirus, though there are two predominant ones that have caused most deaths, according to a 33-page report from the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The research came out at the end of April and has yet to be peerreviewed, but they published it in the bioRxiv journal because scientists determined it was pertinent information. As of May 6, the virus has infected over 3.7 million people globally, killing 260,000. The U.S. has been hit the worst with nearly 1.25 million cases and over 68,000 estimated deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Again, there is uncertainty with these numbers. Some experts say it is more, and some think deaths are being overattributed to the coronavirus, but it is certain that low-income and high population density areas are taking a major hit. Roughly 33% of cases and 33% of deaths in the U.S. have been African-Americans, who make up only 13% of the population, according to the National Geographic. A professor of medicine
at Tulane University said numerous factors play a role in this, including the percent of African-Americans “working in service industries or ‘essential jobs’ that require them to expose themselves to others who may be infected; using public transportation to get to work; lack of access to early testing; and a historical distrust of the health-care system because of previous bias,” the National Geographic reported. The patchwork healthcare system of the U.S. has been under major fire for some time, but this pandemic could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back in terms of actually creating needed change. Not only are low-income people at a greater physical risk to the coronavirus, but they also face greater psychological risk. Lower socioeconomic status predicts higher levels of postdisaster psychological symptoms, according to a National Center for Biotechnology Information journal article which focused on the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina. The same article shows how enrollment levels fell to less than half pre-Katrina levels in some community colleges.
For some students at WKU, going home was not an option, and they had to remain on a predominantly closed campus with little of the usual resources available, such as the Graves Gilbert Health Clinic and Mass Media technology center. Additionally, the Counseling Center closed face-to-face sessions but remains open through the phone or online. Those without proper access to technology, like a functional laptop or WiFi, have been at a major disadvantage during online school. For these students, help is available. WKU is set to receive about $5.3 million from the CARES Act, which is for financial aid eligible students who were impacted by the move to online. Unfortunately, these funds were offered at the end of the semester when school is wrapping up. The Herald conducted an anonymous survey through our newsletter that had 41 respondents, coming from a diverse range of colleges (i.e. Potter College, Ogden College, etc.) and years (freshman, sophomores, etc.). About 58% of respondents said they did not know how to apply for
money from the CARES Act. Additionally, 56% of respondents lost a job or internship because of the pandemic, and 66% say WKU should return to face-to-face classes in the fall. Most everyone’s workload increases with online courses, and for those with technology issues, school is made exponentially more difficult. WKU has tough decisions to make moving forward, but it is clear that some people face a far steeper uphill battle than others. Some of us can afford to “get corona,” lose a job, go to online school and weather this storm while others lives and livelihoods are at far greater risk. A complete return to normalcy will not be possible for a while, with some estimating intermittent social distancing practices to continue for another two years, so forget about mass tailgating for football games come fall. Now is the time for everyone to ask themselves what truly matters. We should all selfreflect on our actions and our values. Liberty and safety are not always competing values. We always have a choice. Choose kindness. Choose common sense.
‘IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU’
Kayla Andrade had COVID-19, on the 112 in Bowling Green, Kentuck felt like it was never going to get be I cannot put into words how how I f would cry myself to sleep because I forgotten what it was like to be heal said And
By Rebekah Alvey Photo by Zane Meyer-Thornton
ne of ky. “It etter. felt. I I had lthy,” drade.
WKU senior recounts living with COVID-19 and encourages social distancing WKU senior Kayla Andrade and those close to her always joked she had the immune system of a “goddess.” She never got sick. “I just didn’t think it could happen to me,” Andrade said. But it started with a tickle in her throat on March 16. After an increase in symptoms Andrade tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the 10th confirmed case in Warren County. Almost immediately after learning her tests were positive, she recalled seeing a tweet announcing a 10th person in Warren County had COVID. “I was like ‘Oh wow. That’s me,w’” Andrade said. While many have assumed younger people, including college students, face no serious risk from the coronavirus, Andrade paints a picture of a dark and painful two weeks of symptoms and strongly encourages social distancing. After feeling irritation in her throat, Andrade said she developed a fever of 101.4, which caused her to be tested for flu and strep throat, both of which came back negative. Before testing for COVID-19, her doctor tested Andrade for other viruses, a process which took longer and still returned negative. After going to the doctor, Andrade said she started to have a cough and the fever persisted. The next day, her symptoms expanded and she woke up with “extreme” body aches. “Even my fingertips hurt,” Andrade said. Still, she didn’t think she had the coronavirus. It wasn’t until the third day when she noticed no improvement in her health that she began to consider the possibility. Eventually, Andrade’s sore throat turned into respiratory issues associated with the virus. In a Zoom class and FaceTime call, she began to have trouble breathing. She said she began to “freak out” after noticing those symptoms. If she tried to
breathe normally she said she would feel a tightness in her chest or have a “cough attack.” ”It kind of feels like a paper bag, like you’re not really getting much air or oxygen that you need at any time,” Andrade said.”I wasn’t able to breathe at all, or I was able to breathe but not as well as I would like to.” Start to finish, Andrade was sick for about two weeks. She said the first week was the worst and it took a total of 10 days before her fever of over 100 degrees broke. “It was the worst time of my life because I thought I was never going to get better,” Andrade said. “At night when I went to bed was always the worst part of it because I was just blazing hot but freezing at the same time, and my body hurt so bad. I just, I didn’t know what to do or how to get better.” At one point she recalled drinking a smoothie with ginger and other immune-system-boosting ingredients. While she could breathe through her nose normally, she realized she couldn’t smell or taste anything. “Eating anything, it just was weird,” Andrade said about losing her sense of taste and smell. After the worst of the symptoms subsided, Andrade said she still had some trouble breathing and coughing. Additionally, she said her body has been really weak and low energy. After tests for flu, strep and other viruses came back negative, Andrade said she was eventually tested for COVID-19. At this point, she said she already assumed she had the virus. Andrade said she did not enter the doctor’s office to get tested. Instead, her doctor and an assistant came outside to the side of the building to take her temperature, check her breathing and then swab her for COVID-19. Forty-eight hours later, those results came back positive. “In a way, I kind of knew because I have never felt anything like that in
my whole entire life,” Andrade said. After visiting the doctor, Andrade was sent home with some antibiotics and an inhaler to help with her breathing. Because she went through so many tests before eventually being diagnosed with COVID, Andrade said she was already starting to recover and feel better. In a way, she said she wished she was tested earlier but also wasn’t sure what difference an early diagnosis would’ve made. “When I was sick, I was like ‘I don’t see an end of this,’ like I forgot what it felt like to feel healthy, I forgot how it felt to breathe normally, how it felt to not have a fever, to taste, to smell,” Andrade said. “It felt like I’ve been sick forever, and that I was not going to get better.” Denisse Andrade, Kayla’s aunt and a physician assistant in New York has seen the impact of this virus first hand. As a surgical PA, she was moved to an intensive care unit to care for COVID-19 patients after the state cancelled all elective surgeries. While she primarily treats people more at-risk, she knew Kayla would likely be fine because of her age and health, Denisse said she still had some fears. At her hospital she said there are some “outliers” where young patients with no preexisting conditions would not recover from the virus. “I was always nervous in the back of my head you know, constantly checking in on her,” Denisse said. “... But I wouldn’t say I was entirely surprised because this, it spreads like wildfire.” While young, healthy patients do rarely die as a result of COVID-19, she said the primary issue is how young people can spread the disease to more vulnerable populations. As a medical worker in one of the hardest hit states in the U.S., Denisse said at times she feels hopeless. In this surgical field, she said she typically knows
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CONTINUED FROM 15 performing surgery will treat a patient. WithCOVID-19, she said there is no set treatment and sometimes despite many attempts to get them well, patients still die. “There’s so much anxiety behind it because every day that you start your shift, you don’t know if someone’s gonna die on your shift,” Denisse said. While Kayla had the virus, Denisse said she primarily encouraged her to monitor her fever and other symptoms to watch for signs of pneumonia, which some COVID patients have contracted.
understanding and encouraged her to prioritize her health. Still, she said the transition to online classes has been equally difficult for her because she is a faceto-face learner and “loves to go to class.” Especially
for five years, Nordgren said it was difficult and strange to see her fighting the virus. She described her as a positive and active person, and they would regularly work out and eat well together. “To see her always like
“It was the worst time of my life because I thought I was never going to get better” -Kayla Andrade
Ill and isolated Once she was confirmed positive, Kayla Andrade said she received a call from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the Health Department asking who she was in contact with and asking for their contact information. She said everyone included was placed in quarantine for at least a week. Additionally, she had to sign a contract ensuring she would provide daily updates on her temperature and symptoms and would not go outside. When she was sick, she said the quarantine wasn’t too bad because she simply couldn’t imagine doing anything else and was mainly stuck in bed. Once she recovered, she said it was difficult to stay inside all the time, but understood how necessary it was. During the peak of her illness, WKU ended its extended Spring Break and returned to online classes. Andrade said she reached out to professors who were
sick, she said she did see a few other people. However, no one else has gotten sick so far. Andrade shares her Bowling Green apartment with her roommate of three years, Avery Nordgren.
because of the virus, she feels it has been difficult to jump back into classes and stay caught up. “It’s my senior year, you know,” Andrade said. “Graduation was postponed, and then I got the one virus that everyone has been avoiding, trying not to get. So it’s been a roller coaster.” Before life completely changed, businesses shut down and mass gatherings were cancelled, Andrade said she and her boyfriend went to a concert in Nashville on March 14. Aside from the concert, she said she hadn’t been around anyone displaying signs of the virus and hadn’t really left the house. In the time before Andrade started feeling really
At first, Nordgren said she was nervous she could get sick because they have been in close contact. However, she has not displayed any symptoms. Similar to Andrade, the health department asked Nordgren to report her temperature and symptoms. With the time Andrade was experiencing symptoms and the mandatory two-week quarantine after she recovered, she and Nordgren were quarantined together for a month. Nordgren said she was a bit disappointed because she had planned to return home to stay with family. However, she said she and Andrade found ways to make the most of the situation. After knowing Andrade
this happy-go-lucky self to like this person who was not leaving her room or anything, you could definitely tell that there was a big difference and shift in her demeanor,” Nordgren said. “It was pretty heartbreaking. It was definitely a 180 from what she usually is.”
‘What are you doing?’ Watching people ignore social distancing
When she was extremely sick, Andrade said she thought a lot about how the outside world was treating the virus, and especially how college students were reacting.
Andrade, a healthy and active 23-year-old and nutrition major, said she thought about her grandparents or older relatives having this virus. “I honestly don’t think they would be able to get through it,” Andrade said. “Because there were days where I went to bed and I would cry, I would cry because I felt so awful, and I didn’t think I was going to get better again ... I just thought every day was going to be the same day of feeling this horror.” Now as states begin to plateau or see a halt in the rapid rise of cases, Denisse said she’s become slightly more optimistic but nervous about a second surge. Without a vaccine or treatment, people should not go back to their normal lives or ignore the social distancing guidelines, she said. “Although it might not affect you directly, you can be the reason that grandma or grandpa dies,” Denisse said. “You know, we had a lot of patients that grandma and grandpa were isolating and quarantining, but the family members came to visit, and now grandma and grandpa have coronavirus, and now they’re dead.” On social media, Andrade said she has been shocked to see college students still having “coronavirus parties” and ignoring some of the social distancing guidelines. “What are you doing?” Andrade asked. From watching Andrade struggle, Nordgren said she hopes everyone, including college students, stays inside. From social media she said she was surprised to see that the social distancing
Even though graduation ceremonies have been rescheduled, graduating seniors congregate at WKU landmarks to take pictures commemorating their time at WKU. REED MATTISON guidelines and other safety actions were not progressing very quickly. In these cases, Andrade said she believes college students don’t understand the magnitude because they haven’t gotten the virus. After experiencing the coronavirus first hand, she said she now realizes why some people are dying as a result. She said she wouldn’t want anyone in her life to get this virus because it was a battle she didn’t know if she could overcome. She pointed to the toll the virus took on her body, and
the fact she now has an inhaler after never struggling with her breathing before. She said when you’re sick with COVID-19, it’s hard to know what the right thing to do is. Should you go to the hospital when you’re struggling to breathe? Or do you stay at home so it can’t spread? She said in that position, you can’t really do anything. At the end of the day, she said partying and continuing with regular life is just not worth the risk of getting this virus.
“If a college student thinks they can’t get it, you’re wrong,” Andrade said. “You’re absolutely wrong. It can happen to you.” While there’s a lot of negativity to focus on right now, Andrade said she can still be optimistic. For example, she said she considers how much road work will be done around her since no one is on the road. Or how with the house under construction in front of her, something new and fresh is being built so quickly. Most importantly, An-
drade said she thinks people will be “cleaner” after this pandemic, by washing their hands and thinking about health more. “I just hope it’s a learning experience in a way,” Andrade said. “I know we didn’t need this to happen to learn from it but at the same time, once it’s all over people realize that if we do get another global pandemic, you take action sooner than later.” “We’re going to learn from this, be healthier, smarter, human beings,” Andrade said.
Editor-in-Chief Rebekah Alvey can be reached at rebekah.alvey660@topper. wku.edu. Follow her on Twitter at @bekah_alvey.
‘I THOUGHT I WOULD HAVE MORE TIME’
Study abroad students struggle with refunds, switch to online classes Photos provided by Brittany Morrison and Nicholas Barth
By Cassady Lamb
WKU junior and study abroad student Brittany Morrison takes a photo of the scenery in Florence, Italy on Feb. 7, 2020, a month before having to depart the country due to growing concerns amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
On March 11, President Donald Trump announced the start of a 30-day travel deferral between the United States and Europe. Although at the time the restrictions excluded Great Britain and Ireland, on March 14 the Trump administration expanded the travel restrictions to those nations. Due to these travel restrictions, many students who were part of study abroad programs around the world were sent back to their respective home countries.
Out of the 103 students that were participating in a study abroad program for the Spring 2020 semester, five of them were studying in Italy, a country where the death rate for coronavirus patients is almost 30%. One of these students was WKU junior Brittnay Morrison, who works for Talisman and Cherry Creative, two organizations that like the Herald are a part of Student Publications. She was on a study abroad trip spanning across Europe and was in Italy when told to go home.
Morrison said the shutdown came in different parts. First was the level two travel advisory, meaning tourists and travelers need to exercise increased caution. Then came the school shutdowns, she said. “No one was worried or anything until the schools in Florence started to send people home,” Morrison said March 17 in a direct message. “[The coronavirus] turned into the only thing we talked about during classes, and people were
starting to freak out.” Students received an announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that Italy had transitioned from a level two travel advisory to a level three travel advisory: “reconsider travel.” Morrison said there weren’t any noticeable differences when the level three travel advisory came into play. “All museums and attractions were open and maybe even more crowded than usual while it was everyone’s last days [on
the study abroad trip],” Morrison said March 18 in a direct message. Morrison said she and her peers had to book flights home, as they were afraid of being forced into remaining in the country due to oncoming restrictions. “I think most people would agree with me that we all feel cheated like we should have picked a different semester,” Morrison said in a direct message. “All of us lost a lot of money with non-refundable flights, housing, and tuitions.” All students who were
Nicholas Barth, a WKU sophomore and study abroad student stands in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles located in Versailles, France on Feb. 22, 2020. The Hall of Mirrors is the central gallery located in the Palace, a widely-known tourist attraction.
studying abroad this semester were forced to come back to the U.S., so many had to spend money on flights and temporary housing. “Travelers returning from the specified countries in Europe should stay home for 14 days after returning from travel, monitor their health, and practice social distancing,” the CDC said in its advisory on March 11. Therefore, Morrison had to quarantine in her home for 14 days. She was not alone — thousands of Americans who had traveled to high-risk countries were told to quarantine as well due to a risk of passing the virus onto others. “It just went from being relaxed, to mass panic within a week,” she said in a direct message. Morrison studied at the Lorenzo de’ Medici (LdM) Institute in Florence, Italy while abroad during the
spring semester. She said as of April 19 WKU has refunded her a portion of the health insurance fee from studying abroad, but neither the university or the LdM Institute have contacted her with any other refund information. Like all students, Morrison is now taking the remainder of her classes online. “I had to drop my Italian class because it was in full Italian,” Morrison said. “They are recorded lectures so it was harder to follow.” Nicholas Barth, a WKU sophomore that was studying abroad in Lüneburg, Germany said he was also not worried about coronavirus at the beginning — until he received news that the Italy study abroad trips were getting canceled. Barth received multiple emails from WKU regarding his trip abroad, with each email increasing in severity.
The first email was a recommendation for him to go home, but the second forced him to go home by March 20. He scheduled a flight for that date. A few hours after the second email was sent out to students, Barth received a message from the study abroad program, stating they had canceled classes for the rest of the semester — two months were remaining. On March 15, Barth got an email from his program urging its students to book the “next available flight” due to issues with flight cancellations and the beginning of borders closing. “So at 3:30 A.M., I woke up with two hours of sleep and booked the next available flight, packed up my whole entire room and life basically, and left my apartment at 9 A.M. that day,” Barth said in a text message March 19. He said coming home
was stressful, with one of the reasons being he was unaware of what the procedures were going to look like once arriving home. “It was all very sudden and emotional,” Barth said. “I thought I would have more time in what had become my home.” None of the WKU students who were studying in Lüneburg were confined to quarantine, although they all listened to WKU and their program provider’s advice and participated in a two week long self-quarantine. Alongside Morrison, Barth has also faced challenges regarding his online language classes. “I think advanced language classes are really different than normal online classes, and they can present a lot of challenges,” Barth said. “They are really independent, which can be difficult with a foreign language.” He said he was required
by his professors to be in class during his program’s scheduled spring break, citing the lack of face-toface interaction. “The week after my program closed when everyone was coming home, we still were assigned work, quizzes and an exam to be completed on our own,” Barth said. He said after reaching out to WKU’s Study Abroad and Global Learning office about his flight refund, they reimbursed him for the new flight he had to take to come back to the U.S. after his program canceled classes. “I am getting refunds from my program, and it’s not as much as I think it should be, but it isn’t horrible either,” Barth said on April 19. “I’ll take what I can get.”
News reporter Cassady Lamb can be reached at cassady.lamb667@topper. wku.edu. Follow her on Twitter at @lambp0p.
“IT’S A STRUGGLE”
Student workers look for new normal while temporarily unemployed Photos by Emma Steele and Reed Mattison
By Rebekah Alvey
Emma Steele Somerset junior Bailey Cooke works for the WKU English department. “Working from
home has been a really challenging task to balance, considering I work two jobs and have five classes to manage. Many people have lost their jobs, unfortunately, so I’m grateful to have been able to keep my source of income even though it requires more time and effort than before,” Cooke said.
As businesses are shutting down and unemployment rates are skyrocketing, some WKU students are feeling
the heat from missed paychecks and struggling to adjust to their new lifestyles. On March 16 Gov. Andy
Beshear ordered all restaurants, cafes and bars to close or move to a carry out and drive thru format only. The
order went into effect hours later. While many businesses have found creative ways to stay open and serve the public through takeout and delivery, many servers were laid off. About 70% of college students also hold a job, according to a 2018 report from Georgetown University. These students working at a restaurant, boutique or on-campus job must juggle the cost of attending college, an apartment or dorm, student fees and other living costs. On the day Beshear ordered businesses to close, Logan Eaton, a senior criminology major, was scheduled to serve at Rafferty’s. When he saw the news, he said he called in and was told not to come in for his shift. In March, Eaton was laid off by the restaurant with no clear indication of when he would be back to work. He said Rafferty’s told him to continue watching the news and monitoring the situation and when everything “clears up,” they would make further decisions. “Obviously there’s no indication when that’s going to happen as of now,” Eaton said. “It’s really just put me in a tough spot as far as handling all the basic things that I need to do on a dayto-day basis, you know. It’s — it’s a struggle.” While the shutdown and lay-off was a shock at first,
Eaton said he anticipated the move based on the type of business Rafferty’s was experiencing. Before the shutdown, Eaton said there was a noticeable decrease in sales and customers. On a Friday, which is typically a packed night, he said very few customers were coming in. While going throug the shock of losing his job, Eaton said he initially found hope in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. On March 25, the U.S. Senate passed the $2 trillion CARES Act. Through one part of the bill individuals can receive a one-time amount based on their tax filings and annual salary. An individual making less than $75,000 would receive $1,200. Married couples with children would both receive checks and an additional $500 per child. For individuals making more than $75,000, the onetime amount decreases. Many college students, including Eaton, were surprised to find out they were not eligible to receive checks if claimed as a dependent on their parents’ taxes. He said he lost a lot of hope for financial security after hearing that news. “I’m just hoping that everything comes back to normal here soon because I could really use it,” Eaton said.
Since being laid off, like millions of others, Eaton has filed for unemployment. He lives in an apartment in Bowling Green and pays for it without family support. After being laid off, he said he’s lost the income to pay for his apartment and way of life. Also included in the CARES Act is increased support for unemployment benefits. The bill would add $600 to the weekly unemployment benefits. Specifically in Kentucky, Beshear has taken action to make unemployment benefits more accessible. This includes: Waiving the seven-day waiting period to receive
insurance benefits and work search requirements while the state of emergency is in effect Raising the weekly benefits by $600 and the number of weeks a person can receive benefits to 39 weeks Allowing independent contractors, substitute teachers, small business owners, gig economy workers, childcare workers from churches, cosmetologists or anyone who lost their job due to quarantine or paid leave to qualify. Eaton described filing for unemployment as a relatively seamless process. Like many other Kentuckians, his primary issue was with the
state website, where you file for unemployment benefits, crashing because so many people were attempting to file at once. Even with logging on to the site three or four times a day, he said it took him two or three days to file. After Beshear ordered many businesses to close, the number of Kentuckians filing for unemployment soared, causing backups within the system. Sidney Dickhaus, a junior social work major, was laid off from her serving job at Cracker Barrel about three weeks ago. Luckily, Dickhaus said since Cracker Barrel is offering retention pay which is a
percentage of what a worker would normally make depending on how long they have worked there. Dickhaus is making about 40% of her normal income through this system. In March, Dickhaus said she filed for unemployment, something she never anticipated doing at her age. She said the process was a bit confusing because there are a lot of questions she felt did not apply due to the circumstances. “It just feels like the circumstances aren’t really as serious, they just haven’t really set in,” Dickhaus said. “It’s just kind of surreal overall what’s going on.”
For the next few months Dickhaus said she has enough money saved up to pay rent on her duplex apartment. Her landlord has also reached out and been flexible about rent. However, as businesses remain shut, Dickhaus said her financial stability could change and it’s difficult not knowing how long this situation will last. Settling into a new normal The transition from working about 30 hours a week and taking a 15 hour course load to everything nearly grinding to a halt has taken
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Reed Mattison Hugh Poland Hall like most other dorms was vacated in a matter of days. Housing parking lots are similarly empty as students move home and Parking and Transportation Services refunds parking passes.
CONTINUED FROM 21 a toll on Eaton mentally. He said he’s used to putting forth a lot of work and effort to classes and his job, but now there are less responsibilities to keep up with. “I was busy every single day all day long, and it’s going from that work style to doing absolutely nothing,” Eaton said. “I feel like my work ethic and everything’s kind of dwindled because of that.” While Beshear has released some plans on reopening the state, there is still no clear answer on when businesses and restaurants will completely return to normal. The uncertainty may hit graduating seniors like Eaton more intensely. While he believes the restaurant industry will be able to bounce back because there will always be a demand for
food and going out to eat, for him this period is a stressful waiting game. In the fall, he is planning to move to Lexington to find a new job. Depending on how long he remains unemployed and the stay-at-home period is drawn out, he is nervous he won’t have enough money saved up to adequately move. “It just kind of left me speechless because I’m now struggling to figure out what to do,” Eaton said. Despite the challenges, Eaton said he’s been able to rely on his parents and has a support system to help figure out his future and to cope with his current situation. Additionally, Rafferty’s has still found ways to help its employees by giving them a free meal everyday if they come in. To Eaton, he said it shows a dedication to employees and a willingness to work with them during
Reed Mattison Spring semester is marked by
the blooming of WKU’s well manicured green spaces. Petals of cherry blossoms and snowball bushes blanket the sidewalks of a vacant campus.
an unconventional time. After WKU moved to online classes, Dickhaus said not working has been helping because the transition to online work has been overwhelming and hard to keep up with. By not working, she said she has more time to catch up and focus on school work. While she is frustrated by the move to online classes and the fact she is out of a job, Dickhaus said she understands why these steps were taken. “I try to keep that in the back of my head when I do, you know, get frustrated about these things and just be more thankful again that we’re doing what we need to do rather than upset about — that I can’t do these things,” Dickhaus said. A closed campus On-campus services have also been shut down or adjusted. All residence halls
aside from Hilltopper Hall have been closed and the only remaining dining options are Hilltopper Hub and Subway for limited carry-out hours. Bob Skipper, director of Media Relations, said students on a work study program or students who met financial aid criteria on their FAFSA should continue to be paid, while those employed in Housing and Residence Life and Dining not actively working will not. On March 31, faculty were notified in an email from acting Provost Cheryl Stevens that a recent change to federal regulations would allow the university to pay students even if they are not working on “typical assignments,” if the employees supervising student workers want to keep students on the payroll. If a student cannot complete their typical work from home, WKU suggested assigning them to
help with a postcard writing campaign and “virtual mentoring initiative” to interact with students. Stevens clarified WKU had spent annual federal allocations, so student pay moving forward would be covered by “institutional unit budgets” or individual departments. Therefore, college deans or senior divisional leaders would determine if a student should continue on payroll. When considering the financial burdens many students may have because of unemployment, Skipper said he did not know of anything WKU could directly do. However, WKU is releasing financial holds like parking tickets so students can register for the next term. Students will still need to pay off the holds, but it will not impact their registration process. Senior Kayla Shepperson has worked in housing al-
most through the entirety of her college career as a desk assistant, Resident Assistant and a Senior Administrative Resident Assistant. In the past month, she said there have been a lot of changes to her life. Just as all students were told to move out of their dorms, Shepperson had to move all her things to her home in Nashville with the same notice. She said those working in housing were told not to help with close down procedures and just needed to get their stuff and leave campus, just like all their residents. Now without a job or source of income, Shepperson said she’s under a lot of stress. Currently she is trying to look for another job in Nashville and is hoping to get a position at an Amazon fulfilment center. Given the concerns about social distancing and spreading the coronavirus, Shep-
person said she is concerned about potentially being exposed at work. At the same time, she said she is a very conscientious person and will take necessary steps to keep herself protected. “Of course this is a really big issue,” Shepperson said. “But with the positions I’m looking at I don’t see it affecting it as much because there’s not as much close contact with other people.” On March 27 in his daily update, Beshear urged Kentuckians not to travel to Tennessee because the state was not taking the same prevention measures, such as closing businesses and schools. Later, on April 2, Beshear issued an executive order which required a 14-day quarantine of anyone coming from out of the state. As of May 7, Tennessee reported 13,690 cases while Kentucky reported 5,822, according to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention. Shepperson said she knew Nashville has had a lot of confirmed coronavirus cases and this was definitely a concern for her, but there wasn’t anything else she could do. She said it’s also difficult knowing that even if she left something in Bowling Green or if a friend needed her help in Kentucky, she is not supposed to come back without quarantining for two weeks. While she’s been looking for jobs, Shepperson said she’s had more time to focus on classes which has helped with the transition. However, she has concerns about balancing work and school with a different job. “With housing I set my own schedule and everything like that, and I knew I had a set schedule each week,” Shepperson said. “Now I’m not really looking at a set schedule like that. It’s
more so I’m getting a schedule and deciding whether I can miss class based on that schedule or not.” Weeks after initially filing for unemployment, Eaton said he still had not received any unemployment check. On April 30, he said he had been told to expect his first check on April 26. Luckily, he said Rafferty’s has since implemented a system where impacted employees receive a weekly check based on the average of their previous pay. For him, this totals to about $400, which he said definitely helps his financial situation, but he said he hopes for more speed from the unemployment system. Now, he said he’s had to put moving to Lexington after graduation almost to the backburner so he can focus on paying his current rent. He said he’s also struggling to afford weekly groceries and other living expenses.
“Having that extra money would really make those financial decisions that you have to make a lot easier,” Eaton said. “It’s not like you have to sit there and dread on it like I’m currently doing.” While Beshear has announced phases to reopen the economy, there is no set date when restaurants will be able to return to normal. “Is the risk worth more than the reward?” Eaton said. “Is going back to work and just getting by worth I guess exposing more people to this virus? It’s one of those questions that’s hard to answer.”
Editor-in-Chief Rebekah Alvey can be reached at rebekah.alvey660@topper. wku.edu. Follow her on Twitter at @bekah_alvey.
Local Businesses like Spencer’s Coffee remain open for carryout only. Only five customers are allowed in the store at once for safety.
By Michael J. Collins
Photo by Emma Steele
Businesses struggle as quarantine order stretches into week 5 Forty-two days after Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear issued the executive order that closed indoor dining and made social distancing measures mandatory in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Many expected quarantine to last two weeks to a month, but the rapid spread of COVID-19 since then has left many businesses torn between limiting COVID-19 spread and reopening their stores. Yan Tan, owner and manager of the Great American Donut Shop, said that while she’s confident that GADS will remain open through quarantine, income has taken a large hit. “Since the governor issued the stay-at-home order and closed indoor dining, traffic has been very slow,” Tan said. “We’re coasting fi-
nancially right now until we can fully open, but I don’t think business will ever be the same because there will still be the fear that this pandemic is lurking.” Tan’s fear that normalcy is a long way off is not unfounded. Experts say social distancing, with or without stay-at-home orders, will have to continue through the summer and likely intermittently until 2022. White Squirrel Brewery and 440 Main Restaurant began raising money to feed local families in need and pay wages to unemployed staff members. The GoFundMe page has gathered $2,215, enough to feed over 200 locals and provide an income to staff members who can not work. Courtney Holland, general manager of White Squirrel Brewery, said the people of
Bowling Green have played a large role in making sure local businesses are able to make it through this difficult period. “The locals in the community have been so helpful, they’ve been supporting us and feeding families in need, and we can’t thank them enough,” Holland said. Holland said that while traffic has been slow, the changes made in response to COVID-19 have helped to make sure the business stays in operation for the time being without needing financial assistance. “We still offer curbside service, and we’re selling beer at a discounted rate, so that’s going quick,” Holland said. “We’ve definitely had to make changes to adjust to the virus. I’ve had to cut my whole staff except for four.” Brie Golliher, the “Pie Queen of Bowling Green,”
owns the Boyce General Store with her husband, Brad. Goliher said local patrons have helped mitigate the loss of tourist traffic, but sales is far from normal. “We have been completely blessed by our community, and we’ve had pretty solidly steady business on Fridays and Saturdays when we are open,” Golliher said. “I’m not trying to be in the profit right now. I’m just trying to take care of the crew I have and keep the bills paid.” Golliher said the length of quarantine was a surprise to her and her husband, but now that more information about COVID-19 is available to the public they’ve been able to look towards the future more clearly. “I really expected quarantine to last about a month,” Golliher said. “Our normal
summers entail lines out the door and tons of people here, and I really don’t think that’s going to be a possibility for a long time.” Brie said online pie sales have significantly increased since quarantine began, a success she attributes to her ability to solve problems creatively and boost social media coverage. “I’m a problem solver, so I’m just gonna make it work with whatever gets thrown at me,” Golliher said. “I like to think of myself as a ‘surpie-vor.’ We’re going into week seven of all this, and I feel like we have a rhythm to make things work.”
News reporter Michael J. Collins can be reached and michael.collins527@topper. wku.edu. Follow Michael on Twitter at @NotMichaelJColl.
MINIMAL DISTANCE Young adults less likely to follow social distancing By Abbey Nutter With the establishment of hotlines to report noncompliance with social distancing guidelines such as KYSAFER, the practice of self-isolation has become a mandated new normal. However, according to a rapid review of the psychological effects of quarantine published in The Lanchet, multiple studies have shown several adverse effects of quarantine such as insomnia, deteriorating work performance and emotional exhaustion. Holly Payne, professor of communication at WKU, cited multiple reasons for why young people find social distancing difficult, such as the uncertainty and sense of loss associated with physical separation from friends and the loss of independence for those returning home. “No work, no socializing, no independent living and few extracurriculars is difficult especially for young people,” Payne explained. Payne said humans have a need to connect with others that affects both mental and physical health. She said isolation is connected with high instances of depression, heart disease, high blood pressure and certain cancers. “While all of that sounds
Photo by Emma Steele scary, social distancing doesn’t mean that you have to have low quality communication or that you must be in total isolation,” Payne said. “It’s important to reach out to friends and family and to stay connected in any way you can.” Payne said social distancing makes building and maintaining relationships harder, though she also said that research indicates that people can develop meaningful connections online. “It’s interesting that although as a society we have come to rely on technology for connecting with people via social media or texting, social distancing shows us that face-toface communication is still important and the preferred channel for communicating with people that are close to us,” Payne said. Karl Laves, associate director of the WKU Counseling Center, also provided his perspective on why social distancing is so difficult from his perspective as “a psychologist, as a parent and as a human.” Laves said he is unsure that young adults are worse at maintaining social distancing. “Young adults, in every generation, tend to be
Signs are spread across South Lawn to remind the public of social distancing guidelines.
stereotyped as impulsive, attention seeking and feeling like they are invulnerable,” Laves said in an email. “This may be due, in part, to the fact that they are (relative to their culture) experiencing a new level of freedom or autonomy, in the early and strong phase of their sexual lives, and are only recently experiencing brain growth/development that will lend itself to
taking a more cautious and responsible view of life.” Laves said because young adults are typically at lower risk for COVID-19, they might think they need to be less careful. Others, according to Laves, may not practice social distancing as an expression of their political identity. “If people are not practicing social distancing then I would assume, as
a psychologist, that they are either being selfish or they are not understanding the reality of this virus,” Laves said. “But either way, education is the best solution.”
News reporter Abbey Nutter can be reached at abbigail.nutter168@topper. wku.edu. Follow her on Twitter @abbeynutter.
Extended living students worry about campus closings, social isolation due to COVID-19 By Max Chambers Photo by Jack Dobbs
Students sheltering from coronavirus on WKU’s campus face concerns about food, technology and isolation. 85 students applied to stay in on-campus housing after WKU President Timothy Caboni encouraged students to move out in a March 17 email, according to Bob Skipper, director of media relations. He said 48 students were granted on-campus housing and moved to Hilltopper Hall. Tucker Covey, a writer for the Talisman, said he is happy to have housing but frustrated about unexpected changes in campus services. “It seems like they change something every three days, and they don’t send an email out about it,” said Covey. “And I’m like okay, there’s only 48 students here, but like we still need to know when things are changing.”
COPING WITH ISOLATION
At the beginning of the COVID-19 response period, on-campus food access was limited to Subway at Bates, P.O.D. at Bates and Hilltopper Hub. On April 3 WKU Restaurant Group limited dining hours at
Subway to 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday, cut breakfast hours at Hilltopper Hub and closed P.O.D. until further notice. Students in Hilltopper Hall were notified about the change by a small laminated sign placed near the door to Hilltopper Hub. “In this time of global crisis I’m not going downstairs to check out the laminated little sign on the window every morning to make sure when I can eat — I’m just kind of expecting them to have things available for me when I’m hungry,” Covey said. Nico Fitzpatrick, who moved from Northeast Hall to Hilltopper, said he is frustrated by the limited locations where he can use his meal plan. “Living on campus has become more and more of a challenge because they keep limiting what we can eat, and that’s kind of important,” Fitzpatrick said. Several students also voiced frustration at losing access to campus technology centers. The computer lab in Jody Richards Hall closed March 26 until further notice “while state-wide efforts to decrease in-person contact are in place,” according to an an-
nouncement on Blackboard. “For some people who are still on campus who have classes that require like Adobe products or something, they probably don’t have computers that can run that, so not having access to the lab makes those classes more difficult,” Fitzpatrick said. Fitzpatrick also said he had to drop a class because using the specialized programs for homework was too difficult on his personal computer. Jessica McClay, a resident of the WKU Apartments on Kentucky Street, said she used campus computer labs for her geographic information science course. “For GIS, I would usually use the computer labs because the computer labs had GIS software on them,” said McClay. “And it was easier to do that than install this giant thing on my computer because it takes up a lot of space, and the projects that I work on take up a lot of space. But now I don’t really have a choice.” Ashley Lang, another student who moved from Northeast, said she has stable computer access but lacks access to a printer for her classwork. “There’s not anything else I can do,” said Lang. “My professors are like, ‘Print this out,’ and I’m like, ‘Where?’”
LIMITS IN DINING AND TECHNOLOGY
Each student in Hilltopper Hall has their own private room to maintain social distancing. With 48 students spread across a dorm that houses up to 400, many students said they feel isolated. Lang said she misses the human interaction she used to have before the coronavirus pandemic. “I have a cat — that’s the only social interaction I get,” Lang said. McClay said social interaction even when social distancing was a big reason she stayed in Bowling Green. “A lot of my friends live in Bowling Green as well, so I wanted to be close to them or at least closer to them and not feel so isolated,” McClay said. “I was just kind of with those few people, and that’s better than being by myself I feel like.” WKU students who feel isolated or stressed about the COVID-19 pandemic can contact the WKU Counseling Center for an online appointment at 270-7453159 or visit their website at www.wku.edu/heretohelp/.
Copy Desk Chief Max Chambers can be reached at max.chambers873@topper. wku.edu. Follow them on Twitter at @chambers_max_e.
The rooms in Pearce-Ford Tower were lit to honor WKUâ€™s class of 2020. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, commencement for graduating seniors was postponed untill September.
‘A lot of us have cried with our patients.’ How healthcare workers are adjusting through COVID-19 Photo by Zane Meyer-Thornton
By Natasha Breu In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, hospitals like The Medical Center in Bowling Green are dealing with unprecedented times. Restricted access, face masks, merging units and newfound precautions have all become part of the new normal healthcare workers and patients have found themselves in. The Med Center is just one of the hospitals in Bowling Green to be affected by coronavirus, and it has put in place a list of guidelines and recommendations for the public. The hospital has also changed the way it operates, which has affected the services available and has put in place visitation restrictions. Becky Ubelhor, a registered nurse and former WKU student, has been working at The Med Center since her graduation in May 2019. She said before the outbreak hit, starting last summer she orientated in the pediatrics/ urology department where she worked her way up from doing small tasks to doing bigger tasks such as calling rapid response when someone’s blood pressure drops quickly.
Since March, however, Ubelhor’s responsibilities changed as her focus became protecting herself, coworkers and other patients from the spread of the virus. She said before the virus, she had to learn about basic droplet precautions such as wearing a mask and contact gown, but when COVID-19 showed up in Bowling Green, protocols changed drastically. “And then after that hit, a lot of things changed in the hospital,” Ubelhor said. “Starting with everyone had to start wearing a mask, even if they weren’t showing signs of sickness.” The Med Center implemented a designated tower specifically for COVID-19 patients, which Ubelhor said helps contain the virus. She said COVID patients are only allowed one visitor, and the visitor has to get their temperature taken at the door. Ubelhor said the screening process is similar for hospital staff as well, including nurses and doctors. They have to get their temperature taken at the door and are given a
mask for each day and night. Once they are in the hospital, they have to keep their masks on, especially when they’re talking to other people a few feet away from them. In March, WKU’s nursing program announced changes regarding nursing students’ curriculum and stated no WKU nursing student will be assigned to known or suspected cases of COVID-19. Nursing students were instead assigned duties such as being runners, answering phones, collecting supplies and monitoring waiting areas. Nursing students who elected not to finish the semester were able to take an incomplete, which can later be changed to an actual grade. As of May 5, Gov. Andy Beshear had announced 5,822 cases of coronavirus in Kentucky. Warren County had 439 of these cases. “Warren has had just a significant growth in cases,” Beshear said. “It’s from a lot of different reasons. We’re gonna work with them to make sure that we have some form of continued testing at least regionally … We gotta look on how to work with that community to continue
to provide support.” Beshear noted that not all of the cases in Warren County come from residents of the county, but since this is where major hospitals are located, they’re likely to be servicing a broader region. As of May 5, there had been a total of 1,603 Kentuckians hospitalized due to the virus. Outside of the COVID-19 unit in The Med Center, changes were seen in other areas of the hospital as less patients were admitted and units had to merge because there weren’t enough patients to fill beds. Ubelhor said her unit had to join another unit temporarily. Ubelhor said these changes took place from late March to early April, and young, healthy nurses were asked to volunteer in the COVID-19 unit. Around that time, the hospital also had to cut costs by decreasing the number of staff. “A lot of the nursing home patients that got COVID-19 and spread it all around the nursing home, they had nowhere to go,” Ubelhor
said. “So they all just kind of swarmed in and took over one of our floors. We actually had to add another floor just because of what I heard was the nursing home patients that couldn’t be placed anywhere else, so they had to be cleared of the COVID first.” COVID-19 isn’t just confined within The Med Center, as the emotional impacts weigh heavy on hospital staff such as Ubelhor. She said at first there was a lot of denial, since nurses and doctors are used to outbreaks such as H1N1 and the seasonal flu. She also said it was emotionally draining trying to keep up with daily policy changes as well as not knowing what to expect when she walks into work. “Through nursing I have learned to adapt a lot quicker and be more flexible,” Ubelhor said. “If I get anxious I kind of stop and rationalize it and say, you know, what can I do in this moment? And that kind of helps to keep my head on straight.” She said something else that affects her emotionally
is having to tell patients they have to go through things alone as they can’t risk having family nearby. “... A lot of us have cried with our patients — a lot of us have listened to their stories and felt their hurt as well,” Ubelhor said. “And then we also are feeling the hurt and the sting by not being able to fully protect ourselves sometimes and not knowing when this is going to end.” Ubelhor also mentioned the stigma that comes with being a healthcare worker during the pandemic. She said people look down upon wearing scrubs in public, and while she hasn’t personally had a negative experience, she has heard from those who have. She said now hospital staff members usually wear street clothes before coming into work. She also said while she lives alone, she knows of other workers who come home to their families and strip in the garage before heading straight to the shower in an effort to protect their families from the potential spread of the virus. She said people need to take this virus seriously to overcome it faster since everyone wants to get this over with. “There’s no use in being anxious and fearful all the time, but it’s a good thing to be healthfully aware,” Ubelhor said. “... We have to all stick together or not at all because there can’t be one person going around and spreading, you know, this virus just because they want to. There has to be
some kind of mercy in that, you know — solidarity with everyone in society, really.” Liceth Rodriguez, a 38-year-old nurse at The Med Center and a single mom of three, currently works in the COVID-19 unit with Ubelhor and was one of the first nurses to volunteer in the unit. Rodriguez said one of the hardest things about being a nurse during this pandemic is how people treat her differently in public as if they’re scared of her, even though nurses are the ones following strict CDC guidelines. She said she understands their discomfort and tries not to let it get to her personally because they’re likely misinformed, but said what hurts the most is not being able to be close to her own family. “But what breaks our hearts and our mental state in our, our will, is being rejected by our own family, being separated by our loved ones,” Rodriguez said. “...I’m a lone wolf. I always have been isolated from the world, but not from my children. They are who I live for, they are who I work for.” Rodriguez said although she is struggling personally with how COVID-19 is affecting her life, she still tries to uplift her coworkers and makes sure they give each other pep talks during breaks or when they pass each other in the halls. She even made them t-shirts with an encouraging quote
to remind them that they can get through this. She also said she regularly initiates conversations with them to make sure they’re coping mentally, physically and emotionally. “The way I cope with my fears, anxieties and stressors, is by hearing somebody else’s story too for me to realize hey, it’s not that bad,” Rodriguez said. “I’m not going through a lot. Everybody else is going through this.” While Rodriguez continues to work through this pandemic, she said she wants to remind people that all they have to do is stay at home and they need to be taking this virus seriously. She said her first priority, however, will always be to care for people no matter how they end up in the hospital with COVID-19. “So, whenever they’re there in that point, we will take care of them with all the love and respect they deserve,” Rodriguez said. “... But don’t risk the lives of the general public. That’s the only one thing that as nurses we ask of the rest of the people. Don’t be selfish, because we’re not being selfish. We’re distancing from our moms, our dads, our children, to see that they’re taking it lightly. We’re watching people die.”
News Editor Natasha Breu can be reached at natasha.breu597@topper. wku.edu. Follow her on Twitter @nnbreu.
Becky Ubelhor is a nurse in the pediatric and neurology departments at The Med Center of Bowling Green. Due to the current pandemic, Ubelhor volunteered to work in the COVID unit a few weeks ago. “At first I thought I was being thrown to the wolves, and then the team work that they showed me really helped me calm my fears,” said Ubelhor. “We dont know whats in the future and thats why we have to work on the present right now and prepare for the future. Im not sure if its going to blow over in 2020 because the flu has been around for centuries. Its a virus, a virus can mutate,” said Ubelhor.
2020 Census rates, data may be affected by student move-outs By Cassady Lamb The 2020 Census has been impacted heavily by the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept over the nation. Universities closed their doors, and students were required to move out and return to their homes, which may be having an impact on the national census rates. President Timothy Caboni sent an email to all WKU students, faculty and staff on March 17 announcing the halting of physical classes for the remainder of the spring semester and the beginning of online instruction. The email also urged students who lived in university housing to go home if possible. Students who lived in on-campus housing for more than six months out of the year were already counted by the university. “We will still submit [students living on campus’] status as living at school for more than six months of the year, August to March,” said Lana Kunkel, Housing and Residence Life Associate Director of Housing Operations. “The impact probably is mostly felt with students in off-campus apartments. I fear that they didn’t report before leaving for
home, or in the midst of changing to online classes, they forgot to report.” Kunkel urged students living in off-campus housing for more than six months out of the year as of April 1 to report their Bowling Green address. “[Report the address] where your lease is at the present moment, not where you are physically,” Kunkel said. Dormitories, nursing homes and Army barracks are classified as “group quarters” under the US Census Bureau. Due to this classification, the Group Quarters Enumeration, GQE, is the process used for counting those living in these places. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s website, 2020census.gov, because group quarters are owned or managed by a third party, the Census Bureau assists group quarters administrators in responding to the census on behalf of residents to ensure a complete and accurate census count. Kunkel has been reporting data via the Census’ eResponse program in regard to those students who had lived on-campus. “The only impact is that move-out has slowed me down in reporting the data,” Kunkel said. “Originally I was to report our hall numbers between April 1 and May 1. But the deadline to report has been pushed back to October, so I am still uploading campus residence hall and apartment numbers, given the situation.” Bowling Green City Commissioner Sue Parrigin said that the tract rate around WKU in comparison to the rest of the city shows the discrepancy amongst college students. Parrigin also belongs to Bowling Green’s Complete Count Committee, or CCC. According to the Census Bureau’s website, CCCs are key to creating awareness in communities all across the country.
“[Students who lived in off-campus housing] will have the tendency to think that they should be counted in whatever community they’re residing in now, and that’s not how it is at all,” Parrigin said. As of April 30, Kentucky’s self-response census rate was 59.2% and Bowling Green’s was 51.8%. This data is provided by the response rates map on the Census Bureau’s website. Data shown on this map changes every day. “It’s really critically important we have this data and it’s accurate,” Parrigin said. Anyone residing in the U.S. is able to self-respond to the 2020 Census by mail, phone or online. This year’s census is the first to conduct online self-reporting. “It’s a great interest for WKU for students to be counted here,” Parrigin said. “It helps the representation at the state and federal level advocating for college students.” WKU has been spreading information about the 2020 Census through social media posts, emails, WBKO and View from the Hill. “[The university has] exhausted pretty much everything they have,” Parrigin said. “I don’t know if there’s anything more they could be doing.” In his letter to students, Vice President of Enrollment & Student Experience Brian Kuster informed students of the importance of the census. “From the way in which legislative districts are drawn and the number of seats allocated to each state in Congress to revising school district boundaries,
funding fire departments and roads, locating businesses, and planning for hospitals and nursing homes, Census data infiltrates our lives in substantial ways – guiding how more than $675 billion in federal funding gets distributed each year,” Kuster said in the letter that can be viewed on WKU’s website, WKU.edu/census. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has also been urging the public to fill out the 2020 Census in his daily coronavirus briefings, telling Kentucky residents that doing so will help raise the state in rankings and help the state rebuild after the pandemic ends. “The governor has been fantastic in getting the word out,” said Fernando Armstrong, director of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Philadelphia Regional Office. “We are very, very appreciative.” Armstrong said there are many positives that can come from filling out the 2020 Census. “Going forward if we were to experience something like this in the future, any kind of disaster or challenging moment, those decisions that need to be made need to have accurate, fresh, reliable data, and that will come from the 2020 Census,” Armstrong said. “We have this opportunity once every 10 years. If we miss this opportunity we might not have the right decisions made.” Armstrong said he hopes students are listening to their universities and communities, and he stressed the fast, remote online self-reporting. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Census deadline has been extended until Oct. 31. This extended
date has been implemented to give people more time to be able to be counted while abiding by the instructions from the governor and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in terms of social distancing, according to Armstrong. “In all cities, including Philadelphia and Washington [D.C.], we are seeing that the colleges and universities are also very actively promoting and interacting with students to participate [in the 2020 Census],” Armstrong said. “It is a little bit more pronounced in Bowling Green. It’s the nature of where we are I think that the college population, the students, wherever they are, in town or back at home or moved on to other locations, they realize that whenever they come back to the university, they need the services they were using, proper housing, proper health benefits, other services and benefits that students looking at a career want.” Armstrong thanked WKU for spreading information regarding the 2020 Census to the community. “I want to one more time encourage all your leaders to take advantage of this opportunity we have in
2020,” Armstrong said. “I want them to take the opportunity to do their civic duty for a good count, so our communities, our children, our students, our senior citizens, everyone can benefit. I want to give my thanks to WKU. There has been more effort and more support from the university than from a lot of other universities in the country. Many messages, videos,
constant very helpful messages coming out of the university. It’s very refreshing and very encouraging. “The young people of Kentucky and those who attend WKU are encouraged and motivated and doing the right thing for their college, the city and the country.”
News reporter Cassady Lamb can be reached at email@example.com.
FAREWELL FROM THE HILL Seniors reflect on, say goodbye to their time on the Hill Photos by Reed Mattison
Spring Hill, Tn senior Sabrina Adams will complete her exercise science degree in isolation. “I did get a cat,” Adams said, “that’s the best thing out of all of this.” Despite an anticlimactic end to her college career, Adams finds the silver lining to her new situation.
By Katelyn Latture Seniors across the nation had their last semester of college cut short, and WKU was no different. Hilltoppers received an email on March 11 stating spring break would be extended to March 22 and the two weeks after that classes would be moved online rather than on campus. However, in less than one week, WKU President Timothy Caboni announced classes would be delivered by alternate formats, rather than in-person, for the remainder of the semester. Most students were disappointed and many had to move from their dorms with short notice. There are few — if any — who were not disappointed by the call to end in-person classes for the remainder of the semester. “If you would have told me for my last three months of senior year I would be back in my childhood home, I would have laughed in your face,” Remi Mays, a public relations senior from Bowling Green, said with a laugh. Many students decided to stay in their Bowling Green apartments, and some, like Rebecca Green, have gone back and forth between their family homes and their school residences. Green, a communication studies senior, was at home in Mayfield for her April birthday. Her mom made her favorite meal, but
if the coronavirus hadn’t changed her plans, Green would have gone with her fiancé to Gondolier, a restaurant in Glasgow that serves her favorite cheesecake. “I’m missing the memories that could have been,” E.J. Fields, a senior at the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science, said. For now, the academy, which is housed on WKU’s campus, has postponed its senior prom, senior night and graduation. While Fields may not have to miss his prom, many seniors in both high school and college are missing memories that might have been. For Wood Brown, a history and economics senior from Princeton, if the coronavirus hadn’t cut his last undergraduate semester short, he would be helping run Greek Week. “For a lot of people, Greek Week is the exclamation point on the year,” he said. “Everybody was working real hard, and it just kind of dissipated.” Sabrina Adams, an exercise science senior from Spring Hill, Tennessee, is in the Delta Zeta sorority and was a co-chair for the Jeopardy game that would have been played during Greek Week this year. “One of my goals this semester was to spend more time with my friends, and now it’s like I can’t see anyone,” Adams said. Adams’ roommates are in and out of the apartment, but she does have her new cat, Luna, to keep her company. A cat was going to be her graduation present, but since the COVID-19 pandemic has tentatively postponed graduation to September, she decided to adopt Luna sooner.
Mays also got a new pet in quarantine, and it seems nearly every time you get on social media, someone else has gotten a new pet. Mays recently became the owner of a golden retriever puppy named Flynn who has his own Instagram account. In addition to potty training her new puppy, Mays has also been learning Italian and reading novels when not doing school work. After graduation, Mays planned to visit Europe but has obviously had to cancel her plans. However, she’s hoping her chance to learn some Italian will boost her experience when she finally gets to visit Italy. “When I do travel to Italy, I’m going to blow them all away,” Mays said with a chuckle. Mays, like other seniors, has had to cancel plans. Most were planning big trips or final campus bucket lists. Green was looking forward to visit-
ing Boston for an entrepreneurship contest and Scotland in the summer for an internship. Despite the many losses of senior year caused by the coronavirus, these seniors still have things to look forward to. Mays will be re-planning her European trip, Brown will attend law school in Louisville in the fall, Green (who got engaged at the kissing bridge on the top of the hill on Friday) can now begin wedding planning while also job hunting, Fields will begin school at the University of Kentucky and Adams will begin physical therapy school at WKU in June. These seniors, though missing out on what they hoped their last semester might look like and the closure that comes with it, have also made great memories on the hill. “It’s a univer-
sity that depends on student life,” Brown said. “Western is truly a living and breathing campus.” One small thing that Green missed was her walk to class every day. It was “the most peaceful part” of her day. College is also where people make lifelong friends. Many seniors remembered and missed hanging in hammocks with friends on campus. Others remembered the parties, especially the formals and dances. Basking in the sun on the Colonnades with friends was a favorite pastime.
Adams, Brown, Green and Mays all had advice for the underclassmen, especially the incoming freshmen whose high school senior year was also cut short. They agreed college is what you make of it, and you should make the most of it and take every opportunity to be involved. Mays also recommended getting an internship. College wasn’t just a place to grow academically for these seniors. It was a place to form friendships, find new interests, learn about different people, cultivate new skills and so much more.
“I think it turns a lot of people into better people,” Brown said. Commencement ceremonies have been postponed tentatively to September. Seniors will soon get to say goodbye to friends, to professors and to their forever home on the hill.
Features reporter Katelyn Latture can be reached at katelyn.latture423@topper. wku.edu. Follow Katelyn on Instagram at @katelatture_
WKU senior and Bowling Green native, Remi Mays, tosses her cap outside of her childhood home that she was pushed to move back into during the Coronavirus pandemic. After returning from a PR internship in California last summer, Mays was excited to graduate this spring, but the pandemic put her plans on hold. “I was supposed to go to Europe after graduation,” said Mays, “if you would have told me I was spending my last months with my parents as my roommates I would have said yeah right.”
TOO SOON Basketball programs reflect on successful campaigns cut short
Editorâ€™s note: This story originally ran online on Thursday, March 12, which was the day the Conference USA Tournament was canceled due to COVID-19. It has since been edited for clarity, and additional information that wasnâ€™t initially available has been inserted.
By Elliott Wells, Matt Gadd & Drake Kizer
Matt Gadd WKU forwards Sandra Skinner (23) and Fatou Pouye (12) await the ball to be brought up the court by Central Michigan. The Lady Toppers defeated the Chippewas 93 - 58 in Diddle Arena on Sunday, Nov. 17 2019.
WKU men’s basketball head coach Rick Stansbury and WKU women’s basketball head coach Greg Collins both traveled with their respective programs to the Conference USA Tournament in the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas, on Tuesday, March 10, in search of automatic bids to their respective NCAA Tournaments, but those hopes were dashed by the coronavirus outbreak on Thursday, March 12. C-USA canceled the remainder of its conference tournament due to continued concerns about the coronavirus outbreak, and the league also suspended all spring sport
competition for league institutions until further notice just 58 minutes later. C-USA made its cancellation of all spring sport competition and championships official on Monday, March 16. A few hours after the league made its announcements on March 12, the NCAA announced it would cancel its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in addition to calling off all of its remaining spring and winter championship events, effectively ending the playing career of every basketball student-athlete whose eligibility was set to expire following the 2020 postseason. The eight senior student-athletes listed on the Hilltopper and Lady Topper basketball rosters unwittingly played their last games in a WKU uniform, a notion that caused coaches, players and administrators to grieve the sudden end of their 2019-20 campaigns but also acknowledge their successes and the gravity of their current situation as it relates to COVID-19. WKU athletic director Todd Stewart, who also addressed the media on March 12, said he felt disappointed for all of the student-athletes who won’t have the chance to compete in the postseason, but he was “especially disappointed” for the university’s seniors. “They didn’t really ever have a final game so to speak, at least not one they knew would be their final game,” Stewart said March 12. “I saw the
Vince Carter press conference [on Wednesday, March 11], and maybe that’s his final game, and he didn’t know that when he took the court.” “It’s a little surreal — it’s not a little, it’s a lot.” Stewart continued. “There’s just unusual things that are happening and everybody is trying to deal with that the best they can.” ‘When you get knocked down, you get back up’ The WKU men’s basketball program finished its last game of the regular season against Florida International on Saturday, March 7, defeating the Panthers 91-85. After that result, Stansbury said he thought his team had the right pieces to make a deep run in the C-USA Tournament. “There’s a lot of things in life that’s not fair,” Stansbury said March 12. “A lot of things in life, right or wrong. This was a situation that none of us liked. But I think when you step away and look around you, what’s happening across the world a little bit, we can understand it.” “This is something that’s much bigger than athletics right now even though most of the time we all get wrapped up in it like it’s the only thing in life that matters,” Stansbury continued. “This is one of the moments where other things in life are bigger than athletics.” Stansbury said his team has experienced its fair share of “teaching moments and life lessons” throughout the 2019-20 season, and he summarized his team’s enduring mentality in one simple life lesson: “When you get knocked down, you get back up.”
“You don’t think this group of guys came down with something in mind?” Stansbury asked. “I couldn’t have felt better about the mission that they were coming on. We’ve seen it over, over and over with this bunch. No one gave us a chance, our players a chance, to be where they’re at. They deserve all of the credit for finding ways and learning life lessons.” “It’s not about what happens to you, it’s about how you respond to what happens to you,” Stansbury continued. “Over and over and over, our guys kept proving what they were made up of, and I couldn’t be more proud of a group of guys. I was looking forward to going back over there today and coaching this bunch because I felt like this bunch was on a mission.” In a season where the Hilltoppers faced seemingly endless amounts of adversity — losing sophomore center Charles Bassey to a season-ending injury and senior guard Kenny Cooper for the entirety of the season due to NCAA transfer policies — the Hilltoppers finished the year with a 20-10 overall record and a second-place finish in the C-USA standings. WKU had to rely on freshman guard Jordan Rawls to orchestrate the offense after graduate guard Camron Justice got injured early in the year, ultimately causing the Hilltoppers to play with a seven-man lineup for the majority of C-USA play, one that forced redshirt senior wing Jared Savage and redshirt junior forward Carson Williams to hold down the frontcourt as undersized bigs. Eight teams were left on the men’s side of the C-USA
Tournament, and Stansbury said he believed his team had as good of a chance to win as any of the remaining squads. “I don’t have to tell you guys this was a special team,” Stansbury said. “Y’all know that, y’all witnessed that over and over and over. Nothing is ever promised or guaranteed in three games. Did our team have a chance? I think everybody knows that.” Savage, Justice, senior forward Matt Horton and senior guard Evan Stack, a former student manager for the program, didn’t have a chance to soak up their final games in a WKU uniform, and Stansbury was adamant that his seniors, and others around the country, should receive a “blanket waiver” for more collegiate eligibility if they want to have that opportunity. “I think that’s the way you could find some silver lining in this dark day right now, for these seniors especially,” Stansbury said. “That would give them some hope, some light a little bit, a little bit more of understanding, a little more compassion for what’s going on.” “That’s something I believe strongly in and something I’m going to voice,” Stansbury continued. “I think there will be a lot of coaches across the country that will voice the same thing.” Unfortunately for Stansbury, winter sport student-athletes weren’t included in the ruling handed
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CONTINUED FROM 25 down by the NCAA Division I Council on Monday, March 30, which made it legal for schools to provide springsport student-athletes an additional year of intercollegiate athletics eligibility. Junior guard Taveion Hollingsworth wrote a first-person blog post that was published by WKU Athletics on Wednesday, April 1. In his own words, Hollingsworth described what it was like going through the experience of having his last run with the 2019-20 squad cut short. “What hurts me the most out of all this is that me and the team have worked so hard, and I mean tirelessly, for the opportunity that we were about to get,” Hollingsworth wrote. “It hurts to think about all the off-season running, all the off-season weights – just the off-season grinding period just feels like a waste.” “Lastly I just wanted to say that I loved everything about my team, and I wouldn’t have wanted to go through anything that we did with anybody else,” Hollingsworth continued. “And I’m sorry to Cam [Justice], Jared [Savage], and Matt [Horton] for how our season ended, and sad to say my last time being with you guys was our last day in Frisco.” ‘We are sad, but we can’t be selfish about what we want in this moment’ The Lady Toppers played their last game of the regular season against Louisiana Tech on March 7, and WKU defeated the Lady Techsters 71-67. Collins said he believed the C-USA Tournament field was as “wide open as it has ever been” this season, which really stings for a group that had “put their heart and soul
into everything.” Redshirt senior guard Alexis Brewer, redshirt senior forward Dee Givens, senior point guard Whitney Creech and redshirt senior forward Sandra Skinner were all honored following what later became the final game of their respective careers. While their tenures on the Hill are over, Collins said he didn’t want the Lady Toppers to lose sight of what they’d accomplished during this season and throughout their careers, and he reminded them of those accomplishments after the news broke on March 12. “I didn’t want Whitney, Dee, Alexis and Sandra Skinner to feel like everything was in this moment,” Collins said March 12. “I didn’t want them to forget about all the success, all the growth, all the things they have accomplished over their four or five years here or three or however many years they have been playing here.” “I told them this moment stinks,” Collins continued. “We are really sad, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that six weeks from now, six months from now, you are going to be very proud of what you accomplished and what you got done at this university.” Collins said he reminded his team that at the end of
day, basketball is just a game, and there is a bigger picture that involves the health of many people who could potentially be harmed by the coronavirus, including the student-athletes themselves. “We are sad, but we can’t be selfish about what we want in this moment if there is a bigger picture that we have to be more concerned about,” Collins said. “I wouldn’t want anybody to get out there on the floor and end up really sick and in the hospital over a basketball game.” Collins agreed with Stansbury’s assertion that all NCAA seniors should receive a blanket waiver that would give them the option to return to college for another season, especially because he knows his
Keilen Frazier WKU junior guard Taveion Hollingsworth (11) looks on after the basketball game against Louisiana Tech on Senior Night in Diddle Arena on Feb. 27, 2019
“young ladies would love to get out there” and play more games. “That is beyond my pay grade, but I can tell you one thing, I think there are a lot of fans and I know one coach that would love to have Whitney Creech, Dee Givens, Alexis Brewer and Sandra Skinner back for another year,” Collins said. “So, if that happens, we’d be all for it.” As previously noted, no Lady Toppers recouped any collegiate eligibility. The NCAA confirmed that winter sports weren’t given a waiver because “council members declined to extend eligibility for student-athletes in sports where all or much of their regular seasons were completed.” Skinner wrote a first-person blog that was published by WKU Athletics on Thursday, March 26. In her own words, Skinner described having her last season of eligibility end very abruptly. “It was a typical game day, the first for us during the Conference USA Tournament in Frisco, Texas,” Skinner wrote. “It was supposed to be a 2:00 game, so we were up early for shootaround and pregame meal. Right before I got comfortable for my pregame nap, social media broke news of other conference tournaments being canceled. Immediately my heart pounded. I knew ours was next.” “As a senior I knew this was my last chance of playing college basketball, and now devastation arose as I knew that I was not going to be able to compete again,” Skinner continued. “As I reminisced, various memories of all the hard work and effort that this season consisted of played in my mind. I knew I was happy
with the 100% effort that I gave every time I was out on that court, but not having the chance to compete for a championship hurt.” The Lady Toppers had a shot at making the NCAA Tournament field even if they didn’t claim an automatic bid. WKU was in contention for a highly coveted at-large bid, as the Lady Toppers finished the regular season at 22-7 and were ranked No. 31 in the final RPI rankings. Collins said the Lady Toppers put themselves in the best position possible, and now they’ll try to pick themselves up after the harsh reality of COVID-19 knocked them down. “Needless to say, they’re crushed — seniors in particular are just crushed,” Collins said. “They wanted an opportunity to compete for a championship, felt like we had a team that had a chance to do that. They were proud of what we accomplished this year, but you kind of hang your hat on what you do at the end of the season, and they were looking forward to that.”
Reporter Elliott Wells can be reached at douglas. firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Elliott on Twitter at @ewells5. Reporter Matt Gadd can be reached at matthew. email@example.com. Follow Matt on Twitter at @ themattgadd. Sports Editor Drake Kizer can be reached at clinton. firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Drake on Twitter at @drakekizer_.
‘BIG RED REPRESENTS THE SPIRIT OF WKU’ Big Red backers detail path to the SiriusXM Mascot Bracket national championship By Nick Kieser Photo provided by Carrie Pratt
As the spring semester at WKU paused for a weeklong spring break on Friday, March 6, the Hill couldn’t have seemed anymore typical. The cherry blossom trees had just started to bud, lining the Centennial Mall sidewalks with beautiful sights. Warm sunlight started to heat up an entirely empty campus, which still remains vacant now after COVID-19 changed the world. The 2019-20 athletic calendar had been particularly fruitful for WKU Athletics, as the university’s football, women’s soccer, volleyball, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, softball, baseball and tennis programs combined for a 128-51-1 record — good for a .711 winning percentage. But just as swiftly as spring arrived, Conference USA suspended all spring sport competition on March
12. The NCAA also canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in addition to all of its remaining spring and winter championship events that day. C-USA updated its suspension to a cancelation of all spring sport competition and championships days later on March 16. In an instant, coaches and student-athletes were told to go home. Fans could no longer sit in the stands at Nick Denes Field or the WKU Softball Complex. Competition at WKU was over until at least the 2020-21 academic year, and although the NCAA voted to give spring sport student-athletes an extra year of eligibility, satiation seemed to be very far out of reach for competition-hungry Hilltopper supporters. Aware that sports fans were sitting at home with nothing to watch or get
excited about, the College Sports on SiriusXM Twitter account created the 64-team SiriusXM Mascot Bracket. When the initial bracket was released on April 3, WKU mascot Big Red was not accounted for, and fans called for the inclusion of several snubbed mascots. Organizers relented, agreeing to add two more mascots to the bracket via play-in games scheduled to begin on April 5. “Hundreds of Western Kentucky fans really let us have it on social media for having left out Big Red,” Mike Mazvinsky, the senior director of college sports programming at SiriusXM, told the Bowling Green Daily News in a piece published on Tuesday, April 7. Big Red was matched up against Landshark Tony, the mascot for the University of Mississippi’s athletic teams. Big Red didn’t disappoint,
earning 89.3% of the 2,482 votes that were cast. Once Big Red’s presence was felt by one SEC program, the infamous red blob was penciled into the tournament field, earning a firstround matchup as a No. 16 seed against No. 1 seed LSU and its famed mascot, Mike the Tiger, on April 6. WKU was set for an uphill battle right off the bat, but Hawesville sophomore Brandon Hunt said he was confident in Big Red’s ability to overcome the early challenge. Hunt thought WKU would “get past the first round for sure” after Big Red was able to sneak its way into the tournament. Big Red pulled out the upset, claiming victory over top-seeded Mike the Tiger with 53.5% of the 14,850 votes cast. Big Red’s next opponent also hailed from the SEC — No. 8 seed Aubie the Tiger, the mascot
for Auburn’s athletic teams. WKU overcame the odds yet again, collecting 53.3% of the 18,551 votes cast en route to an appearance in the Sweet 16 round on April 7. Following each round of voting, humorous video clips were posted on Big Red’s social media channels. WKU creative content producer Logan Fry was in charge of “shooting and editing the videos,” but he received assistance and “content ideas” from WKU assistant athletic director of marketing Olivia Higgins, WKU sports information director Matt Keenan and several others. “Most of the polls closed around 11 p.m. CST, so our team would be monitoring the poll throughout the day and planning for potential outcomes,” Fry wrote in an email.
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CONTINUED FROM 39 “We had a content plan for a win or loss of each matchup. We wanted our fans and Big Red supporters to have immediate feedback dependent on the outcome of the poll. It takes a lot of time to put a video or graphic together, so we tried to plan as far out as we could.” The Sweet 16 brought a matchup against No. 13 seed Georgia Tech and Buzz the Yellow Jacket. Big Red pulled away from the ACC school early on, eventually claiming its most lopsided victory throughout the entirety of WKU’s run through the mascot bracket. “It was crazy,” Hunt said. “And I knew that people loved him, but then it felt good to see teams we beat along the way supporting after we defeated them.” After dispatching Buzz the Yellow Jacket by snagging 80.5% of the 10,270 votes submitted, WKU moved on to the Elite Eight round on April 8. No. 14 seed Tennessee and Smokey awaited the Hilltoppers, providing opposition to the university’s bid for an appearance in the Final Four. After 27,728 votes were cast for the Elite Eight matchup, Big Red was again victorious. WKU collected 51.6% of the votes on April 9, making its way to the national semifinal round for a matchup with No. 6 seed Oklahoma and the Sooner Schooner. “I was checking by the hour on the results on Twitter,” Hunt said. “I would go on break at work and check on the later rounds.” No one had expected the red blob from WKU
to bounce into the mascot tournament and pull off the upsets it had. Big Red ran through the field on several consecutive days, earning a break from Thursday, April 9 until Final Four round voting got underway on Monday, April 13. In total, 25,154 votes were cast for the lopsided matchup in the Final Four round, with Big Red coming out on top and heading to the national championship by claiming 61.7% of votes. “Big Red is a nationally loved mascot that comes out of a small school,” Hunt said. “He took down big schools like LSU, Auburn and Ole Miss.” Fry said WKU was very happy to see its fans showing out in droves to support their beloved mascot round after round, but he personally wasn’t surprised, adding that he believes “it only takes one interaction with Big Red for someone to know that Big Red is something special!” After a pair of Final Four round polls that stretched from April 13 until late April 14, the national championship game was set. WKU would meet fellow No. 16 seed Cosmo the Cougar, which represents Brigham Young University’s athletic teams, with a national title on the line. Grammy Award-winning rock band Cage The Elephant, which has deep roots in Bowling Green, asked its 1.2 million followers to help Big Red on several occasions throughout the miracle run, and rhythm
guitarist Brad Shultz chatted with SiriusXM host Chris Childers on Instagram Live. “First, Western has one of the most winning programs in all of college basketball, if you look up statistically,” Shultz said during the live media spot on April 16. “I
think if you really want to find the vibe and feel the vibe about Western’s basketball and the passion people have, go to Diddle Arena when we’re playing, and I think you’ll feel that. There’s a reason we upset some big teams that come in there and
why some big teams don’t want to come into Diddle Arena.” The poll for the national championship matchup opened at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, April 15, and closed at 11 a.m. on Friday, April 17. The final round
lasted two full days, allowing fans to cast 96,035 votes. Minutes after the poll closed for new votes, SiriusXM released a statement. “The polls have closed, but due to suspicion of voter fraud an investigation is underway,” the College Sports
on SiriusXM Twitter account tweeted at 11:02 a.m. Controversy arose on social media with a few hours left on the final poll, as thousands of votes in Cosmo’s favor caused WKU to lose its lead. Barbs were traded back and forth on both sides, with WKU supporters accusing BYU sup-
Photo by Tanner Cole Big Red pumps up the crowd of freshmen at the 2014 MASTER Plan convocation.
porters of buying votes for Cosmo with Twitter bots. Tensions rose as users posted screenshots of the poll’s vote count jumping by set increments in favor of BYU and also suspicious Twitter accounts, all sporting similar BYU-related usernames. After three hours of deliberation, the College Sports on SiriusXM Twitter account tweeted its final decision on the official SiriusXM Mascot Bracket national champion. Cosmo the Cougar was crowned national champion, claiming 51.1% of the vote over national runner-up Big Red. “During the investigation, because of potential voting issues @SXMCollege graciously reached out and offered to let us decide the national champion with a game of rock-paper-scissors, but we declined,” the WKU Sports Twitter account tweeted after the official ruling. “Too many sports fans had come together to reach a common goal for it to end that way. That being said, we suspected BYU would’ve thrown paper, so we intended to go scissors.” Fry said he believes Big Red deserved to claim the national championship vote, confirming to the Herald that SiriusXM representatives “decided to let the poll stand” after WKU declined to participate in a decisive game of rock-paper-scissors on a last-ditch Zoom call that afternoon. “We wanted to win it outright,” Fry wrote in an email. Big Red wasn’t able to pull off an unblemished 7-0
Cinderella run in postseason play, but it was still grateful for the SiriusXM Mascot Bracket and the competitive spirit it rekindled at WKU. “Although the National Championship matchup unfortunately tilted away from us, there was no doubt that Hilltopper Nation made a statement: The WKU Spirit is a force to be reckoned with, and together we can compete with any other program and fan base in the country,” Big Red wrote in a letter to its supporters published by WKU Athletics on Thursday, April 23. Bowling Green, Warren County, Kentucky and even previously defeated mascots all teamed up to help Big Red in its quest for mascot supremacy, prompting WKU associate athletic director for communications Zach Greenwell to reflect on “a silly poll with a silly ending” on April 17. In a tweet posted to his personal Twitter account, Greenwell described his satisfaction with how an online mascot bracket brought the WKU fan base together, provided alumni a chance to get involved with their alma mater and provided positive energy for the entire WKU community. Hunt said the SiriusXM Mascot Bracket was a welcomed distraction for him during quarantine. “I would rather have actual sports going on, but it was fun to see this competition go down when we’re all not able to go to games,” Hunt said. For the time being, another matchup between BYU and WKU will have to take place on social media. WKU athletic director Todd Stewart and BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe are actively working on changing that though, as the
pair linked up to discuss “some future possibilities.” “We would love to do a football and/or basketball series,” Stewart wrote in a tweet posted April 17. “The schools have never played in football and @WKUBasketball leads the all-time hoops series 3-0 but we haven’t played since 1954. Let’s make this happen @TomHolmoe!” While reflecting on the whirlwind that was the SiriusXM Mascot Bracket, Fry made sure to thank fans for sharing pictures and videos of their personal interactions with Big Red in the replies on Twitter, as their replies to the polls showcased “The Spirit of Western” Big Red represents. “I’m happy with the journey through the bracket, regardless of the outcome,” Fry wrote in an email. “It was one wild time. We had a blast campaigning for Big Red and creating content from it … I think a lot of Twitter outside of the Bluegrass got to see Big Red for the first time.” “Big Red represents the spirit of WKU,” Fry continued. “There’s not many things stronger than that on this planet! We are very appreciative of our fans for showing up to the polls on Twitter.”
Reporter Nick Kieser can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Nick on Twitter at @ KieserNick.
QUIT STAHL-ING Opinion: WKU faces financial problem with no good solution By Matt Stahl The week before spring break, a column idea hit me, as they usually do, around 2 a.m. as I was laying down to sleep. I was coming off of a well-received piece I wrote about Mr. Western taking over a Rick Stansbury press conference, so I was brainstorming ways I could continue to think outside the box. The plan: take a lawn chair over to the parking lot across the street from Nick Denes Field and write a damage report for the foul balls that frequently threaten cars. I didn’t write it the week before I left because it was a little chilly outside and I figured it would give me some interesting content when I got back to Bowling Green. I never got back. There’s a chance I never will. Shoot, there’s a chance baseball never will. I’ll spare you any sugarcoating on this one. The college football season is in danger, and if it gets cancelled, the athletic department at WKU might be up a creek. The financial picture just doesn’t work. On WKU’s 2018 NCAA revenues and expenses report, ticket sales accounted for $2.4 million in revenue. While basketball accounts for a good chunk of that, football has the highest price per ticket and draws more people than any other sport. To lose that revenue
stream completely due to nationwide cancellations or even strict regulations requiring the football season to be played without fans in attendance for some period of time would be devastating to WKU Athletics. The next source of revenue that would be lost is guarantees, generally gained from the football program playing the sacrificial lamb against an obviously better opponent. One of the methods of getting the season played currently being discussed, at least in the media, is to eliminate non-conference games. If that schedule change happens, WKU would be stripped of a pretty solid chunk of change, as money from guarantees came out to over $1.6 million in the 2018 report. Again, I’m not even going to get into how devastating the probable drop in university revenues is going to be. WKU heavily subsidizes its athletic department, and the university will probably not be able to continue to do so, at least not at the level it currently does. So, what’s the solution? I honestly have no idea. Cut sports? Which ones? The university is already under investigation over alleged Title IX violations, and cutting the wrong sports can put the Hilltoppers on the wrong side of federal law. Universities can only cut
so many sports anyway if they want their teams to remain in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, which WKU finished its transition to over a decade ago. One option that would go beyond WKU would be to break the football and basketball conferences off from all other sports, leaving the non-revenue sports to create more regionalized conference affiliations. Imagine an olympic sport conference headlined by baseball and softball. The hypothetical league might feature WKU, Eastern Kentucky, Murray State, Middle Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech, among other regional institutions. Such a plan would eliminate a lot of the travel costs associated with a far-reaching league like Conference USA, as teams wouldn’t have to trek to Texas so much during the regular season. Regardless of what solutions are found, things are about to get interesting both at WKU and across the nation. Life has changed in a lot of ways, and so will college sports. Hopefully things will work out, but at this juncture I’m not optimistic.
Sports Columnist Matt Stahl can be reached at matthew.stahl551@topper. wku.edu. Follow Matt on Twitter at @mattstahl97.
STAND UP AND CHEER?
‘Fluid and constantly changing’: WKU Athletics braces for potential side effects of COVID-19 Photos by Reed Mattison and Chris Kohley The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of everyday life in the United States, including sports at all levels of competition. WKU Athletics is no exception, and the department has been working overtime to deal with the punches the coronavirus has already thrown at it. Although the coronavirus has already had a severe impact on WKU Athletics — including an abrupt end for winter sports, the cancellation of spring sports, an added year of eligibility for spring sport student-athletes and salary reductions for coaches and administrators — more items may soon be added to a growing list of ramifications all Division I programs must face. WKU Athletics has already faced an unprecedented number of curveballs since mid-March, and the list of possible concerns that the department will need to address in the future continues to grow larger and larger as an end to the ongoing pandemic continues to stretch further away. Many multifaceted issues
may crop up for WKU Athletics in the near future, but a long list of events have already shaken up in the world of intercollegiate athletics for the university: March 11: Just before March Madness was set to get going in full swing, Conference USA announced the final three days of its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments would be closed to members of the general public. Later, the NBA suspended play while WKU legend Courtney Lee and his Dallas Mavericks were in the middle of a primetime game on ESPN. Ma r c h 12: One d a y after closing the C-USA To u r n a ment to the public, the league cancelled the remainder of the
The seats of Nick Denes Field haven’t seen a crowd since the last home game against Purdue in early March. Games were quickly canceled amid COVID-19 concerns.
By Evan Culbertson event before suspending all spring sport competition just 58 minutes later. The NCAA then canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in addition to calling off all of its remaining spring and winter championship events. March 16: The C-USA
Board of Directors reached a unanimous vote to cancel all spring sport competition and championships for league institutions. March 19: The WKU football program canceled its spring football practices, the annual Red vs. White spring game and the team’s annual P r o Day.
March 30: The NCAA Division I Council voted to give spring sport student-athletes an extra year of eligibility. The baseball, softball, tennis, men’s and women’s track and field and men’s and women’s golf programs at WKU were awarded an extra year of collegiate competition. April 17: WKU President Timothy Caboni announced that WKU athletic director Todd Stewart, men’s basketball head coach Rick Stansbury and football head coach Tyson Helton each took 10% salary reductions amid the coronavirus pandemic. With the list of obstacles facing the department growing steadily, WKU Athletics will be tasked with maintaining fiscal standards while continuing to educate and develop student-athletes. The NCAA will distribute just $225 million to Division I schools in June, which is less than half of what it had previously budgeted, according to ESPN’s Mark Schlabach. According to a report by The Virginian-Pilot, C-USA “estimates it will give $1 million less to member institutions this year,” while money from “ticket sales, gifts and corporate sponsorships” could decline 20% nationwide. C-USA member Old Dominion commissioned an independent study of its athletic department during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the results
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Photo illustration by Reed Mattison
CONTINUED FROM 43 didn’t paint a positive picture for mid-major schools, projecting “drastic cost-cutting measures” in order to remain financially viable. In light of the NCAA’s decision to give additional eligibility to spring sport student-athletes, ODU will incur a cost of “approximately $500,000.” Stewart told the Bowling Green Daily News WKU has started bracing itself for added expenses and decreased revenues, as extra eligibility was awarded “without extra money” for schools, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Department spokesman Zach Greenwell gave some insight into the university’s ever-evolving plans to combat the effects of COVID-19 on WKU Athletics in an email to the Herald. “There are numerous factors that are fluid and constantly changing through these trying times that will affect our budgetary strategies moving forward,” Greenwell wrote in the email. “Like the university as a whole, we plan to share some of those fiscal plans in the coming weeks in greater detail. WKU Athletics is also actively engaged in the infor-
mation-gathering and preparation stages as one of four Restart WKU Committees.” WKU has already started cost-saving efforts to address its “current budgetary challenges,” as Stewart, Stansbury and Helton — the highest paid members of the athletic department — “voluntarily accepted” 10% cuts to their salaries, saving the university $172,000 overall. Greenwell confirmed the recouped funds will “go back to the athletic department to lessen the impact from other revenue shortfalls, specifically decreased NCAA disbursements related to the NCAA Tournament, on individual programs and student-athletes.” On April 17, Stewart also commented on the department’s voluntary salary reductions. “The American spirit is people rallying around each other in times of need,” Stewart said in a statement. “In our lives, all of us are likely to need help from others at some point. This event has been unprecedented and its impact on so many has been staggering. We are in a position where we can do this, and I know many people throughout the nation are making similar sacrifices. We all look forward to bet-
ter days ahead.” WKU Athletics has experienced $6 million in total budget reductions since 2012, including the elimination of men’s tennis and its men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs. More budget reductions could be coming to WKU Athletics soon if recent cuts at the University of Louisville — which faced “15% cuts in sports budgets,” according to ESPN — are any indication. Those cuts could include the elimination of more WKU programs if the NCAA ever decides to relax its minimum sports sponsorship requirements for Football Bowl Subdivision members. For Group of 5 schools, which includes programs from the American Athletic, Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt and C-USA, meeting the minimum requirements to maintain FBS status is already more difficult than it is for Power 5 conference members, and COVID-19 has only compounded the difficulties smaller institutions face when trying to play from behind. On Tuesday, April 14, a letter Group of 5 commissioners wrote to NCAA president Mark Emmert was obtained by Yahoo Sports’
Pete Thamel. The letter, signed by each commissioner, asked for “temporary relief from several regulatory requirements for a period of up to four years.” Among other items, the request included reducing the minimum number of required team programs from the current 16 programs to 14 or 12 programs, waiving football attendance requirements and also introducing changes to scheduling and financial aid requirements. The NCAA Division I Council announced Friday, April 24, that it had denied a blanket waiver for “sport sponsorship minimums.” But universities will retain the ability to submit “sport sponsorship requirement waivers on an individual basis,” leaving the door open for more programs to be cut, just as men’s soccer at the University of Cincinnati and wrestling at ODU already have been. “Higher education is facing unique challenges, and the Division I leadership believes it’s appropriate to examine areas in which rules can be relaxed or amended to provide flexibility for schools and conferences,” Council chairwoman and University of Pennsylvania athletic director M. Grace
Calhoun said in a release. Still, the elimination of programs at WKU would be difficult. Title IX doesn’t require identical programs for males and females, but cutting more programs could land a university that’s already involved in a Title IX investigation related to baseball and softball in hot water. The NCAA specifically mentioned scheduling as an item to be considered in the near future, and C-USA is already making moves to address potential issues. According to ODU, ODU athletic director Wood Selig is chairing the Futures Planning Committee, which the league is using to consider “a series of changes to regular-season scheduling and its championships.” Selig named several specific changes that are being considered, such as reducing the number of regular season games, reducing the number of conference games and creating schedules that allow teams to play schools in geographic proximity to them, meaning less travel fees. Thamel also quoted several athletic directors who proposed similar changes to ones C-USA is discussing, such as adjusting conference championships, playing fewer games and lowering travel costs by establishing “sched-
uling alliances” between schools in close proximity. “Can you imagine being Conference USA or the AAC and you’re sending your baseball team to UTEP or Tulsa,” an unnamed athletic director in a non-football league asked Thamel on April 14. “It doesn’t make any sense. Much like everything, we’ve done this to ourselves. For us to not think about regional scheduling alliances is complete lunacy.” Another major concern for WKU and the revenue its athletic department will be able to generate during the upcoming fiscal year is a potential adjustment to the 2020 college football season. Stadium sent out a survey to all 130 FBS athletic directors, and 99% of the 114 respondents believe college football will be played in some form, with just 1% believing games won’t be played at all, college football insider Brett McMurphy reported on Wednesday, April 22. Although FBS athletic directors are still optimistic about the prospect of games being played at some point in 2020, Ramogi Huma, the president of the National College Players Association, told Sports Illustrated, “It’s extremely hard to imagine any football in the fall on any level.” If the WKU football team was unable to take the field at all next season, the loss of revenue associated with the program would be devastating to the athletic department as a whole. According to the WKU intercollegiate athletics department’s financial data for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2019, the football program garnered a department-high $8.6 million in total revenue, $4,995,658 of which came
Chris Kohley A lone fan watches the WKU football spring game at Houchens-Smith Stadium on April 23, 2018. from direct institutional support. The next highest was men’s basketball with $3.6 million in revenues, $1,761,458 of which came from subsidies. Even if the 2020 college football season takes place, the possibility of crowdless stadiums at least for some portion of a typical 12game schedule looms large. Potential games played in Houchens-Smith Stadium with no fans would carry a large loss of revenue from ticket sales. The WKU football and men’s basketball programs brought in similar amounts of revenue from ticket sales during the previous fiscal year — $1,072,748 for football and $1,041,026 for men’s basketball — but the loss of football’s contribution would put a large dent in total revenues.
Another idea being floated around is an eight- or ninegame conference-only schedule, which would essentially preclude Group of 5 and Football Championship Subdivision schools from playing non-conference guarantee games against the typically wealthier Power 5 schools. Hilltopper football collected an even $2 million in guarantees during the fiscal year ended June 30, 2019, but that revenue stream could dry up if WKU only faces C-USA opponents. Without football, WKU could also lose revenues from summer camps, a bowl game and other areas. “The 2020 football season is one of the numerous factors I referenced previously as extremely fluid to this point,” Greenwell wrote in
an email. “Anything further would be conjecture at this point. However, we’re creating plans and contingencies for different return timelines for all of our sports, not just football.” Caboni previously announced the four Restart WKU Committees reporting to the university’s COVID-19 Task Force, including an Athletics Committed led by Stewart, but there haven’t been any announcements made regarding potential COVID-19 budget cuts for WKU Athletics. The Board of Regents will conduct its second quarterly meeting on Friday, May 15, and issues related to the coronavirus, including the future of WKU Athletics, are likely to be discussed. “I don’t know what the fall
semester will look like,” Caboni said in a release. “Regardless of what it holds, our institution will be successful because of its people. We will harness the creativity of the WKU community to think differently about how we accomplish our mission, and we will be prepared for any eventuality.”
Reporter Evan Culbertson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Evan on Twitter at @ evan_culbertson.
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Published on May 8, 2020
This publication is brought to you by the College Heights Herald. For more content and coverage of WKU, be sure to visit wkuherald.com.