Students on campus during online learning

Zac VanderLey—Staff Writer 

The white tree inscribed on the flag of Gondor welcomes Colton Ott after a good night’s rest in East Campus. The flag sits on the wall accompanied by the American flag, the Austrian flag, and a WWII 48-star flag. 

After Ott awakes, he begins working on abstract geometry homework while eating breakfast. Before leaving for one of his two work-study jobs with the mailroom and Dordt Media Network, Ott waters his plants and the plants of his friends: an alocasia, multiple cacti, and a dragon plant.

“It’s honestly pretty quiet,” Ott, a senior math education major, said. “The entire block is gone which means I can play my music as loud as I want.” 

Dordt’s decision to undergo online classes for the two weeks after Thanksgiving messed with Ott’s travel plans since he has no vehicle on campus. But he felt happy when a few jobs became available.  

Around 100 students are still lingering around campus after most students went home before Thanksgiving. Both men’s and women’s varsity basketball teams are continuing to practice and play games throughout the end of the semester and into parts of Christmas break. Also, the indoor track team had a meet on the 4th and 5th of December, which resulted in many of their participants staying on campus to practice. 

Even though the campus is not completely empty, there is no one to break the calm of the red grass in the December prairie, and there is no snow to hide the emptiness the students’ absence brings.

“We miss our students,” Robert Taylor, Dordt’s dean of students, said, “They bring the energy and curiosity to campus, and it just feels wrong without them.” 

Taylor and other Dordt faculty carry on the same workload as before. They attend the same meetings and still help students, albeit mostly virtual, but the infectious energy which students bring when they rush to class on longboards, chat with professors after class, and create rather large lines at the Grille is gone. 

The thrash guitar riffs of Metallica from East Campus D ED 5 add some vibrancy to the strangely clear Iowan ground. “Enter Sandman” fades to Ed Sheeran, and Ott brings the alocasia plant into the shower with him in order to provide it with the humidity it needs to survive. The other plants rest in direct room light away from the frosted windowsill, which has claimed the lives of other plants. 

On Thanksgiving Day, Ott played Jackbox games over Zoom with his family. They struggled to answer any Murder Trivia Party questions correctly but enjoyed experiencing their instinct of survival in the mini games. Ott capped off the day with one of his favorite meals: chicken fettuccini with broccoli.   

Due to new COVID-19 restrictions in certain states around the US, many others within the Dordt community partook in Thanksgiving celebrations similar to Ott order to slow the spread of the virus which has now claimed the lives of over 275,000 Americans.   

In the midst of daily record setting new cases and deaths, changing restrictions, and varying viewpoints, there is a sense of united community within Dordt students.

“I’m having difficulty finding motivation to do schoolwork,” confessed Ott. 

Because of the preparation of Dordt professors, online learning for the two weeks after in-person classes has been more intentional and organized. But as the semester comes to an end, motivation seems to lower no matter if the student is home, at Dordt, or staying somewhere else. The slog to the end of final’s week is universal. 

Taylor believes it’s good that Dordt’s campus feels wrong without most of the students.  This feeling reflects the values of the entire community; school is more than an education or a paycheck. Dordt is a calling to serve, nurture, and continually define purpose. 

As Ott finishes drinking a mountain dew and reading through “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” he comes upon an epiphany: “I think more than anything now is a time to think.” 

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