An open letter to anyone now living with a full-time college student (including parents, siblings, spouses, friends, pets and other loved ones), from their second-biggest fan, Jack the Jackrabbit.
Find translations of this letter below:
Read this letter in Hindi translated by Om Perumal, Anamike Prasad, Dwivedi Chandradhar
Read this letter in Korean translated by Eunhee Chang
Read this letter in Sinhalese translated by Kanishka and Lalindri Jayasooriya
Read this letter in Russian translated by Sonya Zybaylova
Read this letter in Portuguese translated by Anna Braga Henebry
Read this letter in Bengali translated by Rabiul Islam and Subrata Bhadra
Read this letter in Japanese translated by Aki and Tomoko Ichinomiya
Read this letter in Nepali translated by Madhav Nepal, Kopila Bhattarai-Nepal, Parashu Kharel, Bikash KC, Bishnu Karki, Achyut Mishra and Amrit Koirala
First, I’d like to say thank you for sharing your student with us.
Whether they’ve been with us for seven months or four years, we appreciate the opportunity to be a part of their higher education journey. Second, we want you to know that we miss them. A lot. Just a few short weeks ago, we sent them on spring break thinking we would see them again soon. As we all know, “soon” has turned into an unknown “some time” in the future.
Candidly, that’s hard, even for an experienced school spirit specialist like me. Our classrooms, dining tables and study spaces sit empty and the once-bustling University Student Union, Wellness Center and residence halls have gone quiet. At South Dakota State, we’re in the business of care. We provide resources, activities, events and opportunities meant to supplement your student’s in-class academic experience. In return, they constantly challenge, surprise and teach us, too. It’s fulfilling work to support their varying needs, growth and goals; and, even though we will continue doing that to best of our virtual ability, we’re going to need your help.
Please understand we don’t discount the difficulties you’re experiencing, too. We know you love your student, but you were not likely expecting to have them back with you so soon. We also know that adjusting to your new living situation is going to take time, but we take comfort in knowing that if they can’t be here with us, they get to be with you.
As hard as this is for all of us, though, it’s harder for many of them. Some of the most impactful experiences they were counting on have been drastically changed, cut short or canceled altogether. That’s why we’re asking you to be our eyes and ears in watching out for the well-being of our students—and those are some big Jackrabbit ears to fill.
Since the time the decision was made to move all on-campus courses online, advisers, faculty and staff have shared many of the students’ concerns. With that in mind, I’d like to share insights into some of the common, as well as lesser-known, challenges our students are facing; the ways we’re able to help; and, more importantly, some ways you can, too.
Jack the Jackrabbit’s Carrots of Care
Challenge: Online Instruction
We all know our students are a tech-savvy bunch, but online courses can prove taxing to even the most adept technology user. Our instructors and distance learning staff are all putting their best jackrabbit’s foot forward in creating an online classroom experience that is engaging. Maintaining the rapport they’ve established with your student on campus is a top priority, but that doesn’t mean we’re all not feeling some distress over the loss of an in-person community.
Online classes aren’t a new concept. Many students on campus may have already been enrolled in one or two. When that number jumped to five or six, so did the workload. A discussion that might take just a few minutes face-to-face now involves writing reflections, reading those of others and then responding again in writing.
I’ve been around the block and Bailey Rotunda Hall a few times, and I can say with certainty that our classes are challenging. It’s college, though, and it’s meant to serve as preparation for the professional world. Adding major disruptions (moving, relearning how to learn and losing important social interactions) can feel isolating and stressful.
Response: Support, patience and grace
SDSU is still committed to offering the same academic resources as we always have. Advisers and instructors now have virtual office hours. Tutoring programs and career development services are operating remotely. We’re doing our best to make students aware of these available resources. They’ve likely been receiving more emails, meeting requests and other technology-based notifications than ever before, though, so it’s easy to miss some of our communication efforts. We’d love for you to help us help your student by encouraging them to reach out, ask questions and access the resources they need.
Challenge: Loss of independence and self-scheduling
Whether your student is a first-year or multiyear student, they’ve gotten accustomed to creating their own schedules, choosing their meals and setting priorities for the past several months. Now their routines have been uprooted unexpectedly and abruptly, and many are questioning how they’ll manage to adjust to new expectations at home while trying to navigate the next several weeks of the spring semester.
Response: Understanding and flexibility
We’ve asked our faculty and staff to remain empathetic when working with students in the “new normal.” We’d encourage you to do the same and suggest having a conversation around expectations for sharing time, sharing space and sharing responsibilities.
Challenge: Health concerns
We’ve heard from so many students that they’re struggling to stay well amid what is a chaotic, unchartered time. They’re worried about keeping up with their schoolwork, their expenses and their relationships. They’re worried about the physical health of family members, friends and themselves. They’re worried about missing beloved experiences and major milestones—club meetings, the chance to say goodbye to roommates, campus events they’ve worked tirelessly to plan, team practices and competitions, scholarship banquets and celebrations, and for our seniors, graduation. Because they’re worried, we’re worried, too.
Response: Reassurance, compassion and creativity
Just like our academic partners, the rest of the staff at SDSU is also committed to providing resources to reassure our students they have the support needed. They’ve set up virtual office hours and counseling appointments and are thinking creatively about how to move activities and events online.
We encourage you to have a little fun, too. Maybe it’s a roommate game night via jackbox.tv or Heads Up!; a Chopped-style cooking competition with ingredients commonly found in a residence hall refrigerator; a study break outside on your own version of Campus Green (my fellow Jacks and I are partial to Ultimate Frisbee, reading for-fun books and the art of hammocking); or, an in-home commencement celebration where the speaker is you and the speech is titled, “I’m proud of my Jackrabbit because ... ”
We’re here for this, and we’re here for you. Together, let’s be here for them.
Keep your chins and ears up.
Jack the Jackrabbit