Silence on the Mountain
Blue Mountain Responds to COVID-19
On March 20, 2020, Blue Mountain College joined countless other universities across the nation in switching to online classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The campus president, Dr. Barbara McMillin, wrote to the entire campus population about this change, explaining the new online format and urging everyone to continue to work hard. Since then, classes have continued almost as normal, with students, faculty, and staff giving their best efforts to finish the semester strong.
Blue Mountain’s decision to move classes online parallels the choices colleges across the U.S. have made. According to an article on NPR, Washington was the first state to start closing their universities, and other states soon followed suit. While some initially continued things like athletic events, the majority halted everything other than classes, urging their student populations to finish the semester at home. This is the approach BMC has decided to take. Soon after the switch to online classes, all the semester’s events were either cancelled or rescheduled for the fall.
“We’re still working to make sure our students and our staff and faculty are safe,” Dean Philip Ritchey asserted. He shared that there are only fifteen students left on campus. These are either international students who have nowhere else to go or students who live in areas with unreliable Internet access. Most of the dorms are closed; Stevens and Southplex are the only ones left open. A curfew is in place for the students, and if anyone leaves campus, temperature checks are required upon return. Although a few faculty and staff still come into the office occasionally, the majority now work from home.
A concerning issue for many students is graduation. Since campus is largely closed, this year’s senior class will not be able to graduate as normal. Graduating senior Victoria Kinsey shared that the graduates will be recognized on May 9th via a webinar, but they will not be able to have the traditional walk down the aisle until August 15th. This is, of course, a tentative date, due to the lingering uncertainty about when it will be safe to return to campus. With reported cases of the virus continuing to rise, there is a possibility that quarantine will still be in effect in August. BMC is aware of this, and there is another committee working diligently to prepare for this next semester, should the quarantine continue.
Though this situation is far from ideal, BMC students can have confidence that they attend a college where the leadership truly cares for their well-being. “We are a family,” Dean Ritchey stated, “and we are here to support you all.” As the college moves forward in this difficult time, we can be grateful for our president, for our faculty and staff, and especially for our God. As Blue Mountain’s favorite psalm declares, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).