Just six months ago, Freed-Hardeman University was forced to bring an early end to its 150th year celebration. As the Covid-19 pandemic swept across the nation, faculty, staff, and students were unsure what would happen to FHU in the coming months. Students had to leave early, events were cancelled, and the campus was deserted seemingly overnight. Classes were completed remotely through Zoom meetings and online assignments. The graduation ceremony was rescheduled on several occasions for the Class of 2020. A surge of posts with the hashtag “#missyoumore” began to appear on social media, depicting the almost abandoned campus as a sad and lonely place without the student population.
In spite of these things, Freed-Hardeman University has bounced back in the face of an ongoing pandemic. Faculty and staff worked closely with one another throughout the summer, planning how to give students some sense of normalcy during the fall semester. The facilities department went to great lengths to provide the housekeepers with the proper disinfectants and cleaners to keep those on campus safe. Guidelines to “Protect the Pride” were established.
In August, FHU managed to smash enrollment records once again.
“I could not be more excited to see Freed-Hardeman University growing. I cannot think of anything better for this university than for more and more people to experience the life of an FHU student for four years!” Logan Richardson, a photography major, exclaimed.
“The record enrollment this semester really surprised me because I was expecting a lot of students to stay home, but it’s nice to know so many people love FHU enough to come despite a pandemic,” Amelya Cooper, an accounting major, said.
“One thing is for sure, I’m glad to be back on campus. Mask or no mask, the learning environment, chance to ask questions, and have one-on-one discussions with a professor is so much better than sitting in a zoom meeting in your kitchen or living room,” Ali Russell, a senior biology major who had her junior year cut short, said.
Richardson said, “I am very excited about being back on campus. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
With the new rules that have been put into place on campus, there are mixed feelings regarding how affected —or unaffected — students are. “The changes haven’t affected me as much as I thought, honestly. I just have to wear a mask, and I’ve gotten used to it,” Cooper said.
“The one time when it seems to be an inconvenience is when I need to work for a long period of time in the library. Wearing a mask for that long isn’t necessarily fun, but I understand why we should,” Richardson responded.
A mask requirement isn’t the only thing that’s changed on campus. Chapel has been adjusted to allow for social distancing. Instead of one chapel service each morning at 10:30 a second chapel service at 11:20 has been added. Students are required to sit in designated rows depending on which chapel service they attend, and they must leave a vacant seat between themselves and other students.
“I find split chapel to be a good idea,” Cooper said. “I actually really like it because it gives people who have a 12 o’clock class time to eat.”
“I like split chapel a lot. There’s less noise and fewer people,” Russell said.
However, chapel services were interrupted earlier in the semester after Freed-Hardeman suffered a spike in cases among the student population. Club activities were slowly cancelled and chapel was held online for a couple of weeks.
“I have realized how much I miss uninhibited fellowship with my friends in Xi Chi Delta,” Richardson added.
In spite of this outbreak among the FHU community, the teams in charge of tracking the spread of coronavirus were able to get things under control quickly. The student population has since recovered, thanks to the quick action taken by the students, faculty, and staff. With everyone working together, the number of infections decreased tremendously within a couple of weeks.
God has watched over the Freed-Hardeman family since the beginning of this semester, and His blessings have continued to shower the community as the semester forges ahead. After 150 years, a pandemic is doing little to stop Freed-Hardeman. If it is the Lord’s will, FHU will carry on for another 150 years.
Words by: A. Hancock, Community Engagement Coordinator
Special thanks to: Ali Russell, Amelya Cooper, and Logan Richardson for their input.