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Uncharted

In which Greta wonders about the future, and Carleton wonders right along with her.

In which Greta wonders about the future, and Carleton wonders right along with her.


I’m listening to music and going through my email. The song “Uncharted” by Sara Bareilles comes on.

So alone, never knew how much I didn’t know
Oh, everything is uncharted

How fitting, I think to myself. Everything truly is uncharted right now.

Then I see an email from Stevie P (Carleton’s President, Steven Poskanzer) in my inbox. “Planning for the 2020-21 School Year.”

We’re discussing the plans for the fall, it says. We don’t know what’s going to happen yet, it says. We want to bring you back to campus. But we just don’t know.

Sara sings on:

Don’t ask me how
To get started, it’s all uncharted.

***

The world seems to be standing on the edge of a cliff right now. We want to turn back, to find its way home, but there’s no clear path. So instead, it’s figuring out the safest way to jump.

For Carleton, that means answering some impossible questions. ‘We are seeking to determine what running the College “in person but maintaining social distancing’ might entail,” wrote Stevie P. “For instance:

  • What is the capacity of our teaching spaces and labs, and could new spaces be utilized?
  • Where and how many students can we safely house?
  • How would we safely feed students?
  • What would be our protocol for when a student gets ill?”

These are sad and terrifying questions for me to even think about. I can’t imagine what it’s like right now for the people who actually have to answer them—no wonder nobody knows what’s going to happen yet. No wonder room draw and class registration have been moved to happen in July. No wonder every time I talk about next term, next year, it’s laced with a giant “if”.

And the uncertainty is sad and terrifying in and of itself. For me, and for you, I’m sure—whether you’re a prospective student or a parent or anyone else who has found this blog. I wish I could give you answers.

What I can do instead is say: I trust Carleton to figure them out, in due time. As much as part of me longs for reassurance that we can come back next term, I know that we must wait and see. As Stevie P wrote:

“In light of all of these circumstances, it is neither possible nor wise to lock ourselves into a rigid decision-making timeline right now. Indeed, it would not surprise me if there continue to be governance meetings and choices made during the summer. I think everyone understands that we shall have to balance the desire for certainty as soon as possible with the rapidly evolving situation. As we have all learned in the last few months, the virus is driving events, not governmental or health care or educational institutions. But we can and shall still make thoughtful choices that are consistent with our values and goals. As eager as we all are to return to campus and resume Carleton’s “normal” operations, we must do so wisely and safely.”

And this is a reassurance itself: that I go to a college which takes my health and safety seriously. That they won’t rush to decide. That I can trust them, as much as any of us can trust anything right now, when they do.

In the meantime, I’ll keep checking Carleton’s COVID-19 updates. I’ll stay connected to Carleton. I’ll keep talking—to my family in person, to my friends on Zoom. We’ll speculate and hope and smile at whatever little things we can.

Do you want to join my web of connection? Please, email me. I’ve enjoyed answering questions from prospective students recently, and I would love to answer yours! About Carleton or COVID or anything else. Trust me, I need another productive procrastination project.

Until then, stay well. Stay home if you can, for yourself and for everyone around you. We’ll get through this uncharted territory together.


Greta is a proud Vermonter who nevertheless wishes she could be at Carleton instead of sheltering in place. She’s making it through the pandemic by writing constantly, playing piano, and spending time outdoors. Then eating lots of ice cream. She wants to learn everything, but is particularly interested in Sociology/Anthropology, American Studies and, of course, English. Meet the other bloggers!